Another really exciting project, perhaps because there was a firetruck involved, was the creation of a sensor box that would help firefighters more accurately position ladders and provide them with information on the conditions of a burning building. Fran Orzech came up with the idea, and he worked with Deeplocal to design a product that would allow firemen to know things like the temperature, the levels of toxins, and more without having to send someone up the ladder. Deeplocal custom designed and built the box using some sensors similar to those in Toyota‘s advanced parking guidance system. The box is attached to the top of the firetruck ladder, and the information it collects is seen in real time on a monitor down on the firetruck. When Deeplocal first approached the Pittsburgh Fire Chief about the idea, he was skeptical. But as soon as they showed him the prototype, he said, “When can we get this on the market?”
The fifth and final prototype created was a customizable touch screen keyboard, invented by David Champion. Using a system similar to Toyota’s touch tracer technology, Deeplocal engineers designed an app-based system that includes a keyboard, mouse, and any other input that you might want. Two moveable touch screens were used so the user maintains full control. When your hands are on the touch keyboard, a pop-up image regular QWERTY keyboard appears on your monitor showing exactly where your fingers are. No more hand cramps or looking down at your keyboard to find the right keys.
All of the winning ideas, plus the other 20 finalists, now belong to CMU and, if they want, the creators can work with the university on their continued development. Toyota donated $100,000 to CMU to help keep the projects going. The weekend was incredibly inspiring, not just because people were making green designs right before our eyes, but because a major corporation like Toyota opened its technologies for other people to use. We hope that more companies follow suit, and allow designers and engineers to take already existing technologies and create more ideas for good.
Images © Jessica Dailey for Inhabitat