How AR Glasses Can Help First Responders Save Lives

More information when needed

  • Emergency workers in the field could soon get help from augmented reality glasses.
  • High-tech glasses can provide information and communication. 
  • Drones can relay thermal imaging data to firefighters wearing AR headsets.
Someone performing CPR on a learning module while wearing a virtual reality headset.

seksan Mongkhonkhamsao / Getty Images

High-tech augmented reality (AR) glasses that display digital information may soon help emergency workers save lives. 

ThirdEye recently announced that its AR products would be available on FirstNet, the first responder-dedicated broadband communications platform. The system is one of a growing number of ways that augmented reality, a technology that combines real-world and computer-generated content, is helping in urgent situations. 

"AR can be useful to first responders by providing them with hands-free, real-time access to information and resources that can enhance their situational awareness, decision-making, and response capabilities," tech analyst Bob Bilbruck, the CEO of the consulting firm Captjur told Lifewire in an email interview. "For example, AR can overlay maps, building schematics, and critical information on top of their view of the real world, making it easier to navigate unfamiliar environments, identify potential hazards, and coordinate with other responders."

Extra Info in Emergencies

ThirdEye said its technology allows EMTs who wear the AR glasses to stream what they see at the scene of an accident to doctors hundreds of miles away. Doctors can simultaneously instruct the EMTs on what to do to save a dying patient's life and digitally draw and scribble notes on or near patients' body parts.

"ThirdEye provides lightweight, hands-free, and 5G-enabled all-in-one hardware and software solutions, like the X2 MR Glasses, and a suite of compatible software applications aimed at different sectors of the enterprise," Nick Cherukuri, the company's CEO, told Lifewire in an email interview. "ThirdEye's MR smart glasses include a built-in proprietary simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) system that allows for 3D environment scanning."

The UK's National Health Service is also trying out the ThirdEye system in a pilot program. NHS staff can share live footage directly with hospital colleagues to get a second opinion, avoiding the need for further appointments or hospital admission, and includes thermal imaging to help assess how wounds and injuries have healed. 

AR could also help reduce paperwork. The company said that NHS nurses spend more than half of their day filling out forms and manually inputting patient data. The pilot is intended to help give them more time for clinical tasks such as checking blood pressure, dressing wounds, and assessing patients' health needs.

"These new smart glasses are the latest pioneering tech and really show us what the future of the NHS could look like—they are a win-win for staff and patients alike, freeing up time-consuming admin for nurses, meaning more time for patient care," NHS director for transformation Dr. Tim Ferris said in a news release. 

A Growing Field

Several AR systems are already in use by emergency services and first responders across the world, orthopedic surgeon Kellie K. Middleton told Lifewire via email. For example, there's Nomadeec, an augmented reality platform that allows first responders to assess patient conditions in the field and share the information with other medical personnel at the command center to coordinate care.

"AR allows first responders to quickly assess patient conditions and make quick decisions on how best to proceed," Middleton added. "By combining real-time data from various sources, such as medical records and situation reports, AR systems can comprehensively view what is happening at any given moment. This allows first responders to make fast, well-informed decisions."

A dental hygenist holding dental tools and wearing a VR headset.

yoh4nn / Getty Images

Siarhei Palishchuk, a survey engineer and the CEO of DronesAlgo, told Lifewire in an email that emergency service workers are also using thermal imaging technology combined with AR technology. The AR device provides the user with hands-free control and a live video feed from a drone equipped with thermal imaging technology. 

"This allows for quick evaluation and assessment of the severity of a fire, search for victims and damaged infrastructure," he added. "The integration of thermal imaging and AR technology can improve situational awareness and make flying a drone easier for the user."

In the future, AR will be deeply integrated into emergency response systems, Palishchuk predicted. There will be improved voice and gesture control and greater interoperability with other technologies, such as drones and robots. "In addition, the use of AR for training and simulation for emergency responders is likely to become more widespread, enabling them to prepare for and respond to real-world emergencies more effectively," he added.

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