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VR Interfaces: Facebook Jacket


Overview of Facebook Jacket
The Facebook Jacket is a prototype augmented reality communication system. A truly totally hands-free internet phone system, truly hands-free because you wear it. It was created by a group of students at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's (NTNU) Department of Computer and Information Science (IDI) as a proof of concept system for emergency responders.

Emergency responders, whether firefighters, paramedics, or police, need to focus all of their attention on surveying the scene, and picking out people in trouble, potential powderkeg situations, or other imminent dangers. Using a cellphone of any type means using the hands to push buttons and focussing all of their attention on the screen. It not only distracts them from the emergency at hand, but it is sometimes completely impossible to deal with. Picture a firefighter on a ladder, carrying a wounded person down it, and their phone rings with urgent information from a colleague who has spotted a new danger the firefighter really needs to be aware of right now. That phone is going to be unanswerable. A radio is goingto be in the same boat.

So not only does it need to minimise reliance on an interface screen, it needs to be something that the user can pick up very easily in most situations. A jacket meets those basic requirements. As it is basic equipment, the emergency respondder is going to be wearing it when they arrive at the scene.

The prototype is a simple lined jacket purchased commercially from a high street sports shop. Cables and sensors were inserted between the two layers. The pocket of the jacket was replaced with a battery operated circuit board to control the whole apparatus, and a microphone to pick up natural speech patterns. A vibrator inserted into the collar of the jacket warns the wearer of incoming calls. A display sewn onto the arm, has no interactivity, just a scrolling high-contrast text message containing the details of the call. Reading it is as simple as just looking at your 'watch'.

Connectivity for the prototype is maintained ia a bluetooth connection to an ordinary Android mobile phone clipped to the user's belt. This then handles the receiving of mesages. It also means the same jacket can be worn by different individuals, with their individual phone providing the discrete numbers. Since the jackets are then identical save for fitting size, it brings the manuufacturing cost down. In addition, the prototype was made using the Arduino system, for rapid prototyping. A commercial version would have much smaller integrated circuitry components, far less visible to the end-user. By placing all the electronics between the layers of the jacket, and sealing them in, the machine-washable status of the jacket is also preserved.

It's not ideal; a spoken message would be a great addition to the system, perhaps activated by the wearer slapping their wrist. But it does prove the concept works. The wearer has no ability to send messages out via the system; it is solely for receiving updates whilst they are on the job - critical discoveries made elsewhere by those co-ordinating the disaster effort, perhaps. A means of single-button sending would also be a great improvement. For example, slap the other wrist to 'dial'. All outgoing calls go to one place only - the incident control room.

For the moment,l it connects to Facebook, and when a comment is posted on Facebook, it is immediately relayed to the jacket and the person wearing it. This basically proves the concept is sound and functional.

Answering an incoming call, by simply glancing at the sleeve.

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