Augmented reality helmets are on their way to the commercial diving community – and the technology could assist salvage or rescue operations in bad visibility.

Developed for military use, the Diver Augmented Vision Display (DAVD) allows an ‘overlay’ of many different types of information onto the helmet’s screen, presenting a wealth of opportunities for construction, maintenance, salvage and UXOS teams as well as emergency response operations.

This real-time visual display includes diagrams, photographs, text messages and even videos; plus it will even have what the military call “sector sonar” – a link with above that provides the divers below with a sonar map. This means that even in murky waters the divers will be able to visualise exactly where they are both in relation to the boat on the surface, seabed structures and other team members.

The helmet also allows a projection of various pieces of equipment or technology so that the diver can identify the various elements and even ‘see inside’ in order to get a better understanding of how to dismantle or repair them. The effect has been likened to a point-of-view video game display giving the diver a heightened reality. Importantly, wearers have the ability to turn the display on and off and direct the topside crew to reposition display data in different locations inside the helmet.

It’s not exactly the first of its type: the F-35 helmet (designed for use alongside the jet itself) as used by the US Air Force allows pilots to look through the aircraft’s body as it if simply wasn’t there.

Back in the water, one of the most interesting elements is that the DAVD helmet will allow increased teamwork. Instead of relying on briefings to help divers locate an object and run through the associated plethora of possible scenarios, the crew above can feed through images to guide their team member through particularly challenging scenarios.

Although DAVD has already been presented to Navy divers for trial and feedback it’s a project that’s a long way from finalised: the Surface Warfare Centre Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) engineers are currently involved in component design for both helmet and full-face masks. It won’t be until 2017 that the tests will be expanded to refine the helmet again before it goes out into the field for military operations.

So it will be some time before the helmet is released to industry with a price-tag that makes it affordable.

By Stevie Knight