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Golden-i headset could change the way people save lives

In just a few years, police, fire, and emergency officials may wear a tech-infused headset that could radically transform the way they work. Crave's Christopher MacManus goes heads-on at CES 2013.

A firefighter dons a Golden-i headset. Golden-i

LAS VEGAS--Verizon's booth at CES 2013 isn't just a hotbed for the latest smartphones and tablets. The company is also showing off a compelling headset dubbed Golden-i.

Why is it so compelling? It is designed to give police officers, firefighters, and paramedics access to a cloud-based software interface loaded with tools tied to their professions.

The lightweight headset, developed by Kopin and Ikanos Consulting, offers a plethora of tech (such as a 1.2GHz dual-core processor) for the wearer that essentially acts as a powerful hands-free computer. The device contains a 14-megapixel camera, GPS, gesture control, speech recognition, and a micro display at the end of the headset stalk that simulates a 15-inch screen. A microSD port allows the user to record images or video during use.

A noise-cancelling microphone, which worked well in the loud halls of CES, corresponds to the built-in speech recognition that enables the wearer to control the software with their voice or speak with others. As for connectivity, the Golden-i features 3G/4G LTE, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.

A glimpse at the Golden-i firefighting interface, which is what you would see when looking through the micro display. Photo by Christopher MacManus/CNET

In a heads-on test, I put on a version of Golden-i specifically tuned for firefighters and understood why the headset could end up being a game changer. A team of firefighters, each equipped with the headset, would instantly have access to view the others 1080p video feeds (including an infrared option for enhanced vision in smoky environments).

Another benefit is how the headset can relay temperature and carbon dioxide levels of a specific area. If a firefighter suddenly went missing, the built-in GPS and digital compass could help others locate that person very easily. The headset could connect to a biometrics sensor and provide a captain with critical information about that firefighter's blood oxygen, pulse, respiration rate, and other health factors. Additionally, despite appearing bulky from afar, the headset actually felt unobtrusive and comfortable.

Ikanos Consulting, the company behind the operating system for Golden-i, has also developed interfaces for paramedic and police applications. (Read more about those uses at the Golden-i Web site.) A Golden-i representative wouldn't comment on pricing, but the company expects hardware and SDK availability by the second quarter of this year, while a consumer version may come out six months later.