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First Responder Augmented Reality Test Bed

This is a logo for Research Triangle Institute

RTI International


In April 2021, the Research Triangle Institute (RTI) was awarded $750K for the Public Safety Innovation Accelerator Program: Augmented Reality (AR) cooperative agreement.

First responders are subject to increases in the amount and type of data presented to them. While AR technology has advanced during recent years, current commercial hardware and applications for public safety users remain limited. New techniques are needed to inform the design, development, and evaluation of AR technologies used by public safety personnel.

To support this unique challenge, RTI proposes the formation of a user-centered persistent first responder augmented reality (FRAR) test bed.

Meet the Team

RTI has a transdisciplinary team of eLearning professionals, designers, developers, usability researchers, and first responders to work on the project, including:

  • Principal Investigator Robert Furberg studies how emerging technologies including smartphone apps and wearable devices, can be used to support clinical and public health interventions. He is cross-trained as a firefighter / paramedic. 
  • J. Phillip Nasseri serves as chief of the White Cross Fire Department (WCFD) in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (NC). He has more than 20 years of career experience in fire and emergency services related fields with the last 10 years as a chief officer responsible for grant writing, statistical data review, and project management.
  • Jordan Hudson is an education research analyst with more than 10 years of professional experience in methodological and analytic roles in education research. 
  • Laura Marcial is an informatics research scientist and expert in human factors, usability testing, and agile design and development of digital products. 
  • Olivia Rice is an education research analyst focused on studying innovative approaches to building skills necessary for success in the workforce.
  • Ethan Burch is a simulation-game designer and AR developer versed in both research and commercial product development. 
  • Debra Kulik has more than 25 years of project management and meeting/conference planning experience in the public and private sectors, particularly in the healthcare field.

Project Overview

RTI’s approach aims to create and support a market for public safety user interfaces (UIs) by improving the current state of AR technologies for firefighter, emergency medical services (EMS), and law enforcement operations and tasks.

The key objectives of their approach are:

  • To codify first responder-centered design techniques to inform the creation of AR-based training resources
  • To adapt traditional usability testing methods for more effective assessment of AR UIs and user experience (UX)
  • To develop an AR training module to permit refinement of these methods, and
  • To establish a persistent test bed for testing and evaluating FRAR technologies

RTI will achieve their objectives through continuous engagement with their public safety partners at the WCFD and the Orange County (NC) Regional First Responder Training Facility.

Potential Impacts of the Project

RTI’s work to develop a FRAR testbed has several potential impacts, including:

  • Establishing recommendations for translating educational material for AR delivery
  • Adapting traditional usability methods for use with AR technologies
  • Forming a cadre of first responders trained in usability testing methods
  • Demonstrating how new methods enhance design, development, and evaluation
  • Deploying new technologies in a dynamic, real-world testing environment
  • Producing and disseminating reference materials to FRAR adopters
Created April 27, 2021, Updated July 10, 2021