U.S. Navy researchers have developed a high-tech, in-helmet display that will assist underwater personnel by using augmented reality.
The device not only shows design inspiration from the world of sci-fi but is said to increase the safety and efficiency of divers in the line of duty.
Those who took diving as a hobby already know that the experience is fun, but it comes with a degree of clumsiness and isolation. Standard masks narrow down the field of view, while the neoprene gloves hinder precision.
Professional divers could use any help they can get to make their work easier and more streamlined.
The Navy acknowledges their need: it has built an underwater head-up display (HUD) prototype that allows divers to check their location and tap into sonar data by looking straight ahead, thus eliminating the need for a smartwatch display.
The leader of the research team, Dennis Gallagher, says that "a capability similar to something from an Iron Man movie" is in store to those who will use the new helmet.
To put it shortly, all the relevant information can be viewed "within the helmet."
Surface sources, such as a ship, can send out information to the Divers Augmented Vision Display (DAVD). Future improvements to the device could bring sonar sensors mounted on the helmet, making it even easier to collect and display info.
Underwater work usually involves low-light conditions or salty water; any additional tidbit of visual clue can assist the process.
The DAVD displays the image in front of both eyes to provide visual depth, which is essential to creating accurate augmented reality. The Navy's device is not the only HUD in use by the military. The technology is also available to fighter jet pilots. However, the challenge to creating a wireless, submerged version is a daunting task for researchers.
The team is building the prototype at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division. Although still in its early stage, the product could grow to see widespread use both by rescue and military authorities and the consumer market.
In-water simulation testing is set for October, the Navy says.
Other defense organizations, such as DARPA, are working on their own HUD for ground forces, and you can read all about it in our coverage.