U.S. Navy developing augmented reality diving helmet

In-water simulation testing is slated for October, with the aim of giving divers "Ironman" capabilities, the U.S. Navy says.

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The U.S. Navy is developing an augmented reality (AR), underwater helmet that should give divers "a capability similar to something from an 'Ironman' movie," according to U.S. Navy engineer Dennis Gallagher.

Gallagher and his team at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division have completed the first phase of development of the Divers Augmented Vision Display (DAVD) after collaborating with more than 20 divers. The high-resolution, see-through head-up display (HUD) is embedded directly inside of a diving helmet.

The system gives divers a real-time display of sector sonar, text messages, photographs, diagrams and AR videos. Divers can turn the HUD on and off and reposition the display data.

"Having real-time operational data enables them to be more effective and safe in their missions," the Navy said in its release, "providing expanded situational awareness and increased accuracy in navigating to a target such as a ship, downed aircraft, or other objects of interest."

Along with military applications, the Navy highlighted the helmet's potential commercial applications, such as underwater construction and salvage operations.

The Navy is aiming to begin in-water simulation testing of the helmet this October, once its design is complete. By fiscal year 2017, the team aims to harden the system for expanded field testing.

Additionally, Naval Sea Systems Command is working on enhanced sensors for the DAVD HUD, which would help divers see higher resolutions, even in waters with close to zero visibility. Those sensors include miniaturized high resolution sonar and enhanced underwater video systems.

While VR and AR systems are still in nascent stages of development, some of the earliest systems were developed by the U.S. military -- back in the1960s. Now that the VR and AR ecosystem is developing, there appears to be a real consumer and enterprise market for it.

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