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Friday, January 27, 2023
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How AR Diving Masks Can Improve Underwater Operations

Augmented reality diving masks might be the answer to common scuba diving mistakes and improve underwater operations.

 

AR diving masks might be the future of archaeological diving, naval operations, and many aquatic recreational activities. AR startups, as well as the US Navy, are exploring the ability of immersive tech to make diving safer for all kinds of divers.

What Is an AR Diving Mask?

Augmented reality superimposes visual elements over a real-world environment. Since the ’90s, fighter aircrafts have been equipped with the technology. It enables pilots to see crucial stats like altitude and speed without having to constantly look down at their controls.

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Similarly, divers have to pay attention to different safety factors, including depth, dive time, and no-stop time. For many inexperienced divers, it’s easy to lose track of time underwater, especially when you’re having fun observing marine life. This can lead to very dangerous consequences and even death.

AR might help change that by making dive information far more accessible for divers. With AR-driven diving masks, divers won’t lose track of their depth or air supply whenever they are admiring the corals. If proven to be successful, AR might even change technical diving, which is far riskier than recreational diving.

Can AR Diving Masks Improve Safety?

AR diving masks have the potential to improve underwater safety, and a few tech startups have attempted to develop AR masks to address common diving concerns. One example is SightEcho, which launched an AR project called Mirage in 2018.

AR diving mask Mirage
Smart diving mask Mirage prototype

Mirage has a see-through display that shows the dive time, depth, no-decompression limit (NDL), and direction. Aside from making dives more convenient for inexperienced divers, it’s designed to reduce potential risks.

All of the data will be displayed at the top portion of the mask so that the diver’s vision won’t be obstructed. Made of tempered glass, the display is designed to withstand high underwater pressure. Its hydrophilic coating helps reduce surface tension and prevent condensation.

However, the project might have been paused or canceled entirely as no updates have been published recently. We reached out to SightEcho but have not received a response. The official website for Mirage states that the project is still in its beta testing phase, although its sign-up form isn’t active. We can’t confirm any progress on the project as of this writing.

The US Navy, on the other hand, seems to be making strides in its AR initiatives. They developed a prototype of an AR diving helmet called Diver Augmented Visual Display. Also known as DAVD, this AR helmet optimizes situational awareness, which allows divers to be aware of the underwater environment and potential hazards nearby.

DAVD can help divers find sunken objects such as downed aircrafts and marine vessels. It can even assist divers with navigation, enabling them to find a target underwater amid low visibility conditions. Moreover, DAVD can help naval diving units with ship repairs.

Gen 2 DAVD system NASA
Gen 2 DAVD system

Equipped with a see-through head-up display, DAVD allows divers to see data superimposed on their view of their real-world environment. The US Navy partnered with NASA last year to test the second-generation DAVD system developed by Coda Octopus Group. The new system features upgrades such as digital stills and video capture for ultra-low light conditions.

Are AR Diving Masks Ready for Consumers?

The feasibility of augmented reality equipment for underwater activities has increased due to advances in technology. However, AR diving masks aren’t quite ready for mass consumption.

In theory, AR diving masks seem to be great alternatives to dive computers. If the information you need flashes before your eyes, then you won’t ever forget to check your air consumption, depth, and more.

It’s too early to determine whether augmented reality diving masks can make diving safer. While it’s easy to speculate about its potential benefits, it’s also important to acknowledge that it may come with risks.

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Can an AR mask be used as an alternative to dive computers? If a mask fails to project crucial dive information, what do divers need to do?

Hopefully, we won’t have to wait too long to get our answers. For now, we can stick with our existing gear and improve our skills.

Gergana Mileva
the authorGergana Mileva
Based in Prague, CZ, Geri is a freelance journalist and writer, focusing on technology, finance, and marketing. If you have a story suggestion for Geri, you may contact her here.