New diving helmet seeks to revolutionize scuba diving
Scuba diving is an equipment-heavy activity. In fact, ‘equipment-heavy’ doesn’t even do it justice, scuba diving is equipment-dependent.
As in, without fairly large amounts of equipment, it is simply not possible to dive. And by and large, the equipment we use today, is the same as was used in the early years of the sport.
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Is this the new gear we need to bring diving into 2016?
Scuba diving gear hasn’t changed much, in its basic form, since Jacques-Yves Cousteau invented the Aqua Lung in the 1940’s.
There have been updates since, sure, with the equipment becoming more streamlined and sophisticated, the invention of rebreathers and sidemount, but nothing that really matches the breakthrough that the original Aqua Lung constituted; a large object strapped to the torso (often the back), hoses feed breathing gas to the diver, who inhales it through a mouthpiece.
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Nope, this is not from a movie
A new conceptual design, created by Thomas Winship, seeks to be exactly that breakthrough.
Named the ORB Helmet, it looks like a design out of the upcoming Star Wars movie, but it is in fact a helmet-mounted rebreather, that seeks to revolutionize scuba diving.
It will essentially compress the tanks/rebreather unit on the divers back, the hoses, the mouthpiece, and even the dive mask into a single, self-contained unit. Strap on the helmet, and you’re ready to jump into the water.
New design might make diving easier for the ears
Adding to this is the fact that the helmet covers the entire head of the diver, much like a motorcycle helmet, also covering the ears.
As the helmet is pressure-resistant, that means that there is no pressurization of the ears, and with that, no need to equalize as we descend, and reduced risk of barotrauma to the sensitive parts of the inner ear.
Communicating underwater with bluetooth
Using Bluetooth technology, the helmet would allow scuba divers to communicate with each other (provided they are within close proximity), and two helmet-mounted LED lights would give the diver light during night diving, cave diving, or wreck dives, without occupying his or her hands.
So is this really new in diving?
However, the product is as stated only in its conceptual phase. And at this point, there are several unanswered questions (yes, this is the killjoy portion of the article).
First of all, modern-day rebreather technology is not at the level yet where a full-fledged rebreather can be squeezed into a unit of this size, at least not for dives of any extended duration or depth. Second, the limited information on the product’s Behance page calls it an “O2 Rebreather Helmet” (using O2 as the O in ‘ORB’). That would seem it is intended as an oxygen rebreather, which is a subset of rebreathers intended for extended, but very shallow dives, typically only up to 15 feet, as the pure O2 used in the system becomes toxic beyond this depth.
Oxygen rebreathers are largely used by military and commercial divers. It is not far-fetched to imagine these groups of divers be interested in a helmet such as this one, but it would place it outside the useful range of recreational divers.
On the more detail-oriented side of things, Bluetooth communication is a good idea, but most products using Bluetooth have extremely short effective ranges. Bluetooth generally has a range of 30 to 40 feet through air, but as water is many times more dense than air, the range is severely reduced. It might be that divers would need to be within a few feet of each other to make the Bluetooth link work.
And the LED lights are an interesting feature, but head mounted dive lights have been seen before, and are largely not used by recreational divers, as you risk temporarily blinding your dive buddy every time you look at them.
So the concept has a few kinks to work out, but more importantly, is limited by today’s technology. However, if they do manage to create a working version of this, look for me at the front of the line to test it out.
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