Dec 30, 2015 | By Alec

While much is expected of 3D printing innovations in the coming years, experts are especially excited about the prospect of 3D printed wearables: custom-fitting bracelets, gloves, patches and even implants that are all packed with sensors that add new possibilities to our daily lives. According to a Gartner prediction, those types of 3D printed wearables are just years away. However, a recent project by two Japanese PhD candidates is already giving us a taste of what’s to come. They have developed a 3D printed glove that essentially acts like a handheld sonar device and lets you feel what’s far below the water – perfect for divers and situations with very limited visibility, such as emergency floods.

This device is called the IrukaTact (iruka meaning ‘dolphin’ in Japanese), and has been developed by Aisen Carolina Chacin and Takeshi Ozu, both part of the Empowerment Informatics program at Tsukuba University in Japan. Inspired by a dolphin’s echolocation technique to detect objects below water, it’s a 3D printed glove that provides haptic feedback to the wearer through pulsing jets of water that reach the fingertips.

The technique can be best understood with the clip visible above. Water jets are pulled into the finger attachments, and as the wearer’s hand comes closer to a sunken object, the pressure increases. And as the glove is everything but bulky, the wearer can simply grab whatever they found immediately. As Chacin explains, their goal was to expand the functionality of the haptics technique. “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,” Chacin points out. Right now, the sensor can receive and send signals from up to two feet away, but the goal is to expand that range in the near future.

So how does this glove work? Well it uses a MaxBotix MB7066 sonar sensor, three small motors, and is controlled through a simple Arduino Pro Mini. The IrukaTact is programmed to send signals to the three middle fingers, which are encased in silicone thimbles. The motors can be found on the top of the index, middle and ring fingers, and pull in water from the surrounding environment. The two remaining fingers have been purposely left out of the equation, to reduce bulkiness and save battery power. The sensors are placed on the wrist, and are connected through encased wires. Most of the container parts have been 3D printed.

As you can imagine, this glove really has a lot of potential. Divers can use it when searching for victims and sunken objects, for the exploration of sinkholes, and even archeologists could use it to search for hidden treasures preserved underwater. In the near future, the glove could also be paired with virtual reality devices such as the Oculus Rift and even with gyroscopes and accelerometers to provide detailed haptic feedback in VR – something that would truly make echolocation a viable technique for divers. While the PhD team is continuing to work on this fantastic project, they have already made the 3D printable files available via TinkerCAD here, and are encouraging others to experiment with it as well.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



Maybe you also like:


Sonar Surface wrote at 12/30/2015 5:11:25 PM:

Finding the wood stud or other objects behind a wall might be a more practical daily use.

Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to Feeds twitter facebook   

About provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive