Avalanche rescue helmet wins international product design award

A helmet that integrates computing elements to reduce time in avalanche search and rescue has won an international prize for Product Design Program Assistant Professor Jason O. Germany.


Germany’s “AVAnav: Avalanche Rescue Helmet-Mounted Display” won a bronze award in the 2014 International Design Excellence Awards (IDEA) Outdoor Products category. The helmet is a wearable, interface prototype for search-and-rescue personnel that reduces time in locating buried avalanche victims by presenting navigation cues in a helmet-mounted display.

“Jason worked with ski patrol members in the design of this product,” says Kiersten Muenchinger, director of the UO Product Design Program. “The goal is to make the ski patrollers’ job of handling gear and finding people more facile.”

The helmet-mounted and integrated system concept is a significant improvement over hand-held avalanche transceivers and is more contextually appropriate for searching over snow-covered terrain. “This work focused on enhancing the interface of existing avalanche transceivers,” Germany says, “taking what has long been a hand-held and heads-down user experience and integrating various interface elements into equipment that rescue personnel already use, with the goal of making the search for a victim more intuitive and ultimately faster.”

“This year's IDEA jury had a fairly audacious task: judging more than 2,000 entries,” 2014 IDEA Jury Chair Tad Toulis said in an email to Germany informing him of his award. “We saw a lot of design work that any designer would have been inspired by. Your work demonstrated the kind of creativity and passion the jury believed represents the best our profession can aspire to. Congratulations on your win!”

Germany’s research examines how emerging interface applications can serve to address new problem spaces. His work was shown at the International Symposium on Wearable Computers 2013 in Zurich, Switzerland, last September. This product design was also selected as a concept finalist for the Spark International Design Awards in 2013.

The IDEA awards are the most competitive international design award program offered in the United States. Gold, silver, and bronze winners’ work will be included in the Industrial Designers Society of America’s Innovation yearbook as well as in the IDSA online gallery

Germany will also be attending the IDSA International Conference this August in Austin, Texas, to present a research paper as well as take part in the IDEA award ceremony August 14.

helmet-mounted display
Above: These two images show both the working test prototype and the product visualization for the helmet-mounted display. The prototype utilizes a dual folding mirror to produce a see-through interface for guiding rescuers to the distance and direction of a buried avalanche victim. Image courtesy Jason Germany.

helmet-mounted display
Above: These three images show the proposed search steps in utilizing the new AVAnav wearable design. Users can switch to search mode on the wrist-mounted control (left), follow direction and distance via the helmet-mounted display to the burial location (center), and probe and dig for victims. Image courtesy Jason Germany.

July 1, 2014