IrukaTact is a submersible haptic search glove that assists the location of sunken objects inspired by dolphin echolocation (Iruka in Japanese). 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 micro-pumps which propel water jets onto the finger pads. The strength of the jets dependents on the proximity to 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.
We wanted to design a new sensation for underwater haptics, and to understand the perceivable range for this method as a tactile display. The mechanoreceptors on the pad of our fingers are very sensitive to light touch, and by using the viscosity of aqueous environments to propel force feedback, these haptic modules display a detectable mixture of vibration and tension, a desirable quality for artificial tactile rendering. The motor suctions water from the surrounding environment creating a stream that disembogues onto the finger pads. This sensation is similar to placing a finger under a tap of running water. Our glove was designed to allow the user to be able to continue using their hands naturally and feel their environment beyond the tool’s feedback. IrukaTact sends signals to three fingers, while leaving the thumb and the little finger to be free, minimally covering the hand.
This technology has multiple application potentials beyond underwater echo-haptic location, including new interfaces for virtual reality such as digital object simulation in aqueous environments. The IrukaTact glove files have been released is an open source flooding aid kit with the potential to assist people in emergency situations. Extending the sense of touch to feel objects in parallel under cloudy waters where sight is no longer useful.