CMU Uses VR Technology to Enhance Firefighting Skills for Volunteers in Preparation for Wildfire Crises

30 January 2024

Corporate Communication and Alumni Relations Center (CCARC)

        Wildfires are a major problem in the northern mountainous basin region, particularly as summer approaches and dry leaves create a significant source of fuel. To address this issue, Dr. Krot Leksomboon from the CMU Science and Technology Research Institute and Assistant Professor Dr. Chalermpon Kongjit from CAMT-CMU have developed a project that utilizes VR technology to train volunteers in wildfire suppression techniques, thereby improving their survival skills during wildfire crises.

        This project is a continuation of a prototype developed by Dr. Krot and their team in 2022. The training system encompasses all aspects and processes of wildfire suppression, including different wildfire types and strategies, as well as the usage of various wildfire equipment such as fire beaters, rake-hoes, knives, and blowers. It also covers survival skills during life-threatening emergencies. AI is employed to randomize training scenarios, tailoring them to each participant, and subsequently processes and displays the results. Additionally, a management system oversees the training, assessing its efficiency. Realistic graphics and user-centered design with content management corresponding to real-world wildfire occurrences are integral to enhancing a users' knowledge and experience. The training system is compatible with various devices, ranging from VR glasses to Android smartphones.

        The project has been piloted in the National Reserved Forests and the Doi Suthep-Doi Pui National Park in Chiang Mai, an area frequently affected by wildfires that have detrimental impacts on the city and its residents. Collaborators on this project include the Chiang Mai Wildfire Operations Centre, the Northern Wildfire Control Training and Development Centre, the Chiang Mai Forest Fire Control Station, the Protected Areas Regional Office 16 Chiang Mai, and the Chiang Mai Office of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation. The implementation of the project focuses on practical applications of the innovation, which has been designed to suit users tested for efficiency and effectiveness, and to be adopted in actual training sessions. The training system allows for updates to incorporate more severe wildfire situations, and participants who successfully pass the training will receive certification for their tested competency, providing motivation and incentives for its use. Social impacts and cost-effectiveness are assessed, and the project is currently transitioning into real-life practice, with volunteers having been scheduled to engage in a fire suppression mission alongside official firefighting officers called 'Fire Tigers,' which took place on January 18, 2023, to showcase the skills they have mastered through the training system.