Gloves that grant special powers are no longer confined to the realm of fantasy. Forget the Power Glove or the Golden Gauntlets; this real-life super-glove gives wearers the ability to “feel” or sense objects that are hidden underwater. Designed by Ph.D. candidates Aisen Carolina Chacin and Takeshi Ozu of the Empowerment Informatics program at Tsukuba University in Japan, the IrukaTact sonar glove may prove to be an invaluable tool in performing tasks underwater when visibility is low.

dolphin, Atlantic Spotted Dolphin, dolphin swimming

The name (“iruka” is Japanese for “dolphin”) and design of the IrukaTact is inspired by those highly intelligent cetaceans with perpetual smiles. IrukaTact incorporates an echolocation system, which retrieves information about objects hidden underwater. The wearer of the glove is then given this information through a haptic feedback system, in which pulsing jets of water are used to indicate the location of the object. As the glove moves closer to the object, the water jets become more intense and pressure is applied to the wearer’s fingertips. “Our overall goal was to expand haptics,” says Chacin. “How can you feel different textures or sense depth without actually touching the object? Vibration alone doesn’t cut it for me, or most people, for that matter.”

Related: Scientists use sonar to create first-ever visualization of what a dolphin sees

The IrukaTact glove uses three small motors that are located on the user’s index, middle, and ring fingers to pump water onto the hand and create the informative pressure. To save battery power and improve mobility, the thumb and pinky fingers are not covered. A silicon ring attached to the middle finger connects to a sensor on the wrist and allows it to remain parallel to the hand. This enables the glove to receive information from the direction in which the palm is facing.

Chacin and Ozu imagine that the glove could be used in search and rescue missions, to uncover sunken objects or to identify hidden hazards like sinkholes. The glove also has potential as an integrated component of a virtual reality experience. Such a glove might be useful for playing as a Jedi in a Star Wars video game. I can feel the Force now.

Via Popular Science

Images via Popular Science and Wikimedia