This DIY sonar glove can 'feel' distant objects underwater

Japanese Ph.D. candidates built a portable sonar device with a 3D printer, an Arduino and a few sensors

If you live in a relatively dry climate, you probably don't worry about underwater hazards during the flood season. If you attend Tsukuba University, Japan however -- just miles from where the Kinugawa River flooded Joso City earlier this year -- the risk of rising water is a very real threat. Enough so that two Tsukuba Ph.D. candidates have developed a 3D-printed sonar glove specifically for the purpose of searching flood waters.

Aisen Carolina Chacin and Takeshi Ozu call the sonar device the IrukaTact -- an amalgam of 'tactile' and the Japanese word for dolphin. It may look like a few simple plastic finger covers, but there's a lot going on with this device. The IrukaTact uses a combination of small water jets, a MaxBotix MB7066 sonar sensor and an Arduino Pro Mini to create tactile pressure feedback underwater. If the user's hand is far away from a solid object, the jets will apply relatively little pressure to the fingers; if they're close, the jets will kick in at full stream.

The sensor is capable of finding underwater objects up to two feet away. That doesn't seem like much, but it's enough to detect terrain changes and obstacles in murky water -- the kind you might find while performing rescue operations after a flood. The team has made the glove's design available as a DIY kit, and hopes it will find use as a tool for emergency response groups.