IrukaTact: the portable sonar for floods and tsunamis

Researchers at the Tsukuba University in Japan have developed a sonar glove that allows swimmers or post-tsunami rescue teams to "see" with their fingers in murky waters.

Aisen Chacin and Takeshi Oozu created a very special DIY kit. IrukaTact is a portable underwater sonar system that, when used as a glove, will tell users they're approaching objects or other solid materials.

The PhD duo believes that their 3D-printed sonar can play a crucial role during flood searches. IrukaTact - a blend of the words "iruka" ( the Japanese word for "dolphin") and "tactile" - features small water jets that will help you feel and find anything up to two feet away.

"The system detects the topography of flooded areas with an ultrasonic range finding sonar sensor that sends haptic signals to the wearer's fingertips. These signals are produced by micropumps which propel water jets onto each digit," explained Chacin.

"The strength of the jets is dependent on the proximity of the object that the wearer is hovering over; the closer the object is to the wearer's hand, the more pressure they will feel on their fingertips."

The inventors say that IrukaTact's potential applications go beyond the sonar itself. Chacin and Oozu want to see it connected to virtual reality interfaces and 3D simulation devices in underwater environments.