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Occupational cancer rates for firefighters, specifically in the U.S., outweigh any mortality rate in the U.S. 70% of firefighter deaths are not due to injury, but to cancer. Data from studies over the last 50 years are now only shedding light on occupational cancer in the fire service. But how do we change a culture of fire personnel that were used to seeing soot as a badge of honour?

Addressing such a substantial issue cannot be solved overnight. However, I proposed to tackle the issue in incremental steps, through an education platform & service design that implements continued learning throughout their career. Continued education surrounding occupational cancer, is not yet a requirement in fire training and could show significant potential if it was.

Idea generation AI generated fire scenes Shapes XR controls Virtual reality product preview

The Process

Firefighters conduct a majority of their training in staged fire incident environments - they learn by doing. I wanted to use this opportunity to challenge myself to potentially make a real change within the industry through speculative product design and VR. Equipping firefighters with the information to tackle not only daily barriers in protecting themselves, but also beginning to break down cultural barriers within the industry.

Cultural barriers that reinforce bad habits, such as not wearing all ofitems PPE, soot as a badge of honor, and a "it won't happen to me" attitude. There is a critical need for an engaging education platform that addresses these gaps & focuses on firefighters being future thinking about their health.

Decons' is aimed at not only a new generation of firefighter, but for seasoned personnel that need to adopt a new attitude to the dangers they face in their duties. I leaned on my soft skills of communication to empathise with the challenges & define the problem area within the firefighters' various roles. I delved into and defined roles such as leadership, education officers, seasoned professionals, those new in the field and those in training.

Comprehensive research & critical thinking led to a speculative immersive solution & service design model that challenges the way we design for future education & training.I conducted many methods of research throughout the lifecycle of this project including:,/p>

I also created a service design blueprint that tells the story of a firefighters education journey over time and the impact Decon seeks to have on the future health of firefighters. Tackling a complex challenge & adopting a holistic perspective prompted me to delve into creating a forward-looking service design blueprint for a scalable platform.

Firefighter using product in VR

The Outcome

Reaching the outcome of a future concept in VR that empowers users to learn in the environment that facilitates information retention was a huge success for this project. With the intergration of Shapes XR as a tool to bring ideas to life, we can see how we not only address the problem of creating an engaging education system for firefighters to learn about a typically not so engaging subject matter, but we also allow those outside the field to grasp the harmful environments they put themselves in to protect others. The outcome of this project surpassed what I thought I could achieve, as a designer with no coding experience and as a spatial environment novice.

Creating a desktop version that was immersive proved challenging, especially in a 'read & click next' type workflow. however, through exploring a narrative based UI and consistently styled AI generated images to add a level of immersion in a 2D environment, I was able to tell the story of a firefighter working through a fire scene and make it not only educational but engaging, in stark contrast to the curriculum they have avavilable today

My objective was to create a speculative piece that highlighted how we can get firefighters to be future thinking about their health in an engaging way as well as visualise a serious subject matter into a visually pleasing and consumable way. Decon has a achieved this and recieved great feedback from users within the industry as well as keen interest to further the develop the deskptop version. In the meantime, we wait for technology to catch up so it's more accessible to the public and designers so I can bring the VR portion to life.

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3d spatial environment of a basment
Selecting VR environment ui Desktop verson of Decon Vr version of Decon AI generated firefighter at risk of exposure