The iFire program connects globally located researchers and 3D systems in the world’s first Artificially Intelligent (AI) immersive environment able to visualise the unpredictable behaviour of extreme wildfires. The 3D systems are networked across a range of platforms using software that enables users to interact with each other by sharing the same 3D setting in real time, no matter their platform. These platforms range from mobile 3D cinemas, 3D virtual production volumes, 3D LED walls, 3D head-mounted displays to laptops and tablets, providing interaction for multiple distributed users at any one time. It is underpinned by an AI framework that analyses, learns from and responds to individual and group behaviour in real-time. Collaborators include UNSW iCinema Centre, UNSW Climate Change Research Centre, University of Melbourne, CSIRO/Data61, Australasian Fire & Emergency Service Authority Council, Fire & Rescue NSW and San Jose State University.

iFire Networked Visualisation System, 2024

During 2022 iFire developed a prototype that converted CSIRO/Data61 SPARK data into a 3D Environment using the UNITY software engine. In 2023 it is converting this large-scale data along with WRF-SFIRE data using the UNREAL software engine and applying it to Australian, North American and Southern European Case Studies.

iFire consists of an artistic and scientific series of projects, the Penumbra series comprising the artistic and Umbra its scientific series. Both use the same database of atmospheres, flora, pyro-histories and topographies. Penumbra explores the palpable and sensorial qualities of wildfire experiences, while Umbra investigates the dynamic variables of wildfire events. To amplify the evocative viscerality of these encounters, Penumbra is rendered in monochrome. To underscore its complex pyro-turbulent processes, Umbra is rendered in color.

While fiery landscapes have traditionally provided a mute artistic backdrop against which the human drama plays out, these scenarios embody the unruly spatial and uncertain temporal turbulence that characterise our global warming epoch. Nature is now no longer mute but an increasingly disruptive protagonist.

iFire Pine Plantation Case Study, 2024

This necessitates a shift from a human-centred monologue to a depiction that embodies this human and terrestrial interaction. Depicting this new landscape demands the modelling of multiple wildfire kinetic and spatial processes, which cannot be understood by human cognition alone. This requires the integration of the speed and scale of AI in establishing patterns and predicting behaviours with the subtlety and adaptability of human perception. This involves an intelligent aesthetic that co-evolves, where the setting learns from human behaviour, independently changing its behaviour in unexpected ways in response to user interaction.

The program allows researchers and first responders to interact with unanticipated wildfire scenarios that operate independently of expectations according to their own dynamics in response to user actions. By generating unforeseen behaviours, the program challenges users to better understand and master the distributed dynamics of wildfire scenarios in a safe virtual environment. Assembling histories and expertise from diverse backgrounds and integrating them into an intelligent database with a library of fire behaviours, management procedures and protocols, it offers evolving life-like encounters that test responder and researcher situational awareness and collaborative decision-making in the face of these extreme events.

The program assembles a repertoire of expertise ranging across AI, computer graphics, creative arts, database architecture, environmental humanities, interaction design, fire management and immersive visualisation. The end-result is a mobile system that can be utilised by research organisations and training centres in-situ. The program is based on the award winning iCASTS safety training simulation system commercialised for the Australian and Chinese mining industry that has trained over 30,000 personnel across six mine locations.

The iFire program is financially supported under the Australian Research Council’s Laureate funding scheme.

Executive Director ARC Laureate Fellow Dennis Del Favero
Co-Director Prof Michael Ostwald
Co-Director ARC Future Fellow Aspro Yang Song
Centre Manager Julie Schultz
Office of National Intelligence Post Doc Fellow Dr Baylee Britts
ARC Laureate Post Doc Fellow Dr Susanne Thurow (Associate Director)
ARC Laureate Post Doc Fellow Dr Carlos Tirado Cortes (Associate Director)
ARC Laureate Senior Programmer Navin Brohier
ARC Laureate Programmer Finn Perry
ARC Laureate Programmer Dylan Shorten
ARC Laureate 3D Modeller Scott Cotterell
ARC Laureate PhD Mario Flores-Gonzales
ARC Laureate PhD Frank Wu
CSIRO PhD Nagida Helsby-Clark
ARC Laureate MA Lara Clemente

ARC Project Collaborators and Partners: see Project collaborators and partners tab
ARC Project Title: Burning landscapes: reimagining unpredictable scenarios
Project Funding: ARC FL200100004
Project website: UNSW Sharepoint iFire

Australian Industry Advisory Committee:

  • Rohan Scott (ACT Emergency Services Agency)
  • Mark Beech (ACT Parks & Conservation Service)
  • Conor McDonald (AFAC – Land Management Group)
  • Sandra Lunardi (AFAC – Land Management Group)
  • Richard Hurley (CSIRO / Data61)
  • Mahesh Prakash (CSIRO / Data 61
  • Nick McCarthy (CFA – Victoria)
  • Brett Wagstaff (CFA – Victoria)
  • Jarrod McGrouther (Fire & Rescue NSW – Emergency Services Academy)
  • John Lavery (Fire & Rescue NSW – Emergency Services Academy)
  • Matthew Riley (NSW Department of Planning, Industry & Environment)
  • Stevie Knott (NSW Premeiers Department and Cabinet)
  • Greg Penney (F&R NSW)
  • Laurence McCoy (RFS NSW)
  • Cormac Purcell (Trillium Technologies)
  • Josh Hopwood (VIC Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning)
  • James Brandwood (WA Department of Fire & Emergency Service – Simulation & Exercise Capability Unit)

European Industry Advisory Committee:

  • Héctor Alfaro (Andalucía Region Forest Fire Service; AMAYA Public Agency; Andalucía Government)
  • Juan Caamaño (Pau Costa Foundation)
  • Mariona Boras (Pau Costa Foundation)
  • Nuria Prat Guitart (Pau Costa Foundation)
  • Sébastien Lahaye (SAFE Cluster)
  • Fabio Silva (Portuguese Special Civil Protection Force)

Research Committee:

  • Kay Worthington (CSIRO – USA)
  • Craig Clements (San José State University, USA)
  • Adam Kochanski (San José State University, USA)
  • Ali Tohidi (San José State University, USA)
  • Kate Giljohann (University of Melbourne – Biodiversity Dynamics Research Group)
  • Craig Nitschke (University of Melbourne – Biodiversity Dynamics Research Group)
  • Jane Davidson (University of Melbourne – Victorian College of the Arts)
  • Steven Sherwood (UNSW – ARC CoE Climate Extremes)
  • David Fuchs (UNSW – ARC CoE for Climate Extremes / NSW Department of Planning, Industry & Environment)
  • Grant Stevens (UNSW – Arts, Design & Architecture)
  • Jason Sharples (UNSW – Canberra)
  • Moutassem El Rafei (UNSW – Climate Change Research Centre)
  • Maurice Pagnucco (UNSW – Computer Science & Engineering)
  • Yang Song (UNSW – Computer Science & Engineering)
  • Carol Oliver (UNSW – Science)