Enhancing Diver Capabilities and Safety with Smart Wearables

Project Code: 10477331

Faculty: Auckland Bioengineering Institute

Department: Auckland Bioengineering Institute

Main Supervisor: Associate Professor Iain Anderson

Application open date: 01 Jul 2021

Application deadline: 01 Oct 2021

Enrolment information: NZ Citizens, NZ Permanent Residents, International


Enhancing Diver Capabilities and Safety with Smart Wearables

The underwater environment attracts 10s of millions of scuba divers worldwide, with 1 million PADI certifications being issued annually. However, despite its popularity, diving is not without risks and sees a large number of yearly accidents and fatalities. This project focuses on enhancing the capabilities of divers and improving their safety with smart wearable technology. The project builds upon recent research accomplishments in human-robot interaction underwater. Previously, a gesture-recognition dive glove, developed by the Biomimetics Laboratory at the University of Auckland, was used to explore novel diver-robot communication methods based on wearable sensors. The glove, pictured in Figure 1a, captured motion data in real time, recognised when gestures were performed using trained machine learning algorithms, and translated these as acoustically sent commands to the autonomous underwater buddy ‘DINIS’ (Figure 1b).

What we are looking for in a successful applicant

The ideal student for this project would have experience/knowledge of the following areas:

  • Electrical/mechatronics engineering, preferably with experience in communication systems fundamentals
  • PCB design (preferably with Altium Designer)
  • Object oriented programming skills

You will be joining the ROADMAP (Robot-Aided Diver Navigation in Mapped Environments) team as part of the Biomimetics Lab at the University of Auckland. The team has expertise in electroactive polymer technology with a specific focus on underwater applications. The project is part of a collaboration with the Laboratory for Underwater Systems and Technologies (LABUST) at the University of Zagreb. A demonstration of our latest trials together can be seen in this video: Trans-Global Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle.

This is a fully funded PhD project which will explore underwater communication technologies specifically to suit diver needs. This may include but is not limited to:

  1. Redesigning traditional underwater acoustic communication to be wearable.
  2. Development of a communication platform/protocol for data transmission between multiple smart wearables worn by the same diver (for instance between a smart dive glove and wetsuit or dive mask).
  3. Development of an improved feedback system for the diver to allow better communication between divers and underwater robotics.

The student will be based at and have access to facilities at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute including an electronics workshop, machining workshop, prototyping equipment, and modelling software. 

Other information

This is a fully funded PhD project