iDive: Transforming Our Relationship With the Ocean

Written by on October 24, 2014 in Editor's Choice, Technology

Last week, MST was in the Exumas and it was spectacular. Editor and senior writer Emily Tripp had the opportunity to test out a very cool new piece of technology: iDive Housing.

Emily with the iDive in the Exuma Land and Sea Park, Bahamas.

Emily with the iDive in the Exuma Land and Sea Park, Bahamas.

Developed by Dr. Michael Berumen, marine biology researcher and professor at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), iDive housing keeps your iPad safe and fully functional underwater.

Dr. Michael Berumen with the iDive near Danger Reef in the Exuma Land and Sea Park, Bahamas.

Dr. Michael Berumen with the iDive near Danger Reef in the Exuma Land and Sea Park, Bahamas.

After 15 years of research, Dr. Berumen became frustrated with his only method of data collection. While diving, most researchers manually record data with a pencil and special waterproof paper. Then, they spend hours back in the lab copying that data into spreadsheets. There are a few problems here. Manually recording findings underwater is perfectly reliable, but what if your handwriting is messy? What if your paper gets smudged or, worse, what if it gets lost? All that data would be gone for good.

Then there’s the problem with copying the information from the paper into the computer. What if you can’t read one or two lines? What if someone else is doing it for you and they misread your markings? Plus, it takes hours and hours of time that could be better spent progressing the research.

What if, instead, you could just enter your findings directly into your iPad where they can be saved automatically? The problem is that most underwater cases leave the touchscreen unusable because the screen can’t differentiate between the conductivity of the water and your finger. Plus, these cases would never be able to withstand the crushing pressure of the ocean depths. Dr. Berumen set out to solve this problem.

During a series of (potentially risky and expensive) experiments with his iPad, a ziplock bag, and a bathtub, Dr. Berumen confirmed that the touchscreen will work underwater if there’s a layer of air above the screen. Seven or eight slightly-more-sophisticated models later, iDive emerged as the first fully functioning touchscreen housing.

Image courtesy of iDive.

Image courtesy of iDive.

Developed with the help of Watershot Inc., a product engineering firm known for its expertise in designing and developing products for underwater use, the case has a flexible membrane over the screen with a pressure management system that allows the diver to maintain a layer of air between the screen and the membrane, saving the iPad from the potentially crushing pressure while allowing the diver to have full use of the touchscreen. It’s been tested up to 100 meters, which, for the average diver, is more than deep enough.

From saving researchers from hours of data-copying to improving the quality and reliability of citizen science data, iDive has the potential to change the course of marine science research. The possible uses aren’t limited to research, though. You can listen to music underwater; you can map out your dive, save it as a PDF, and pull it up while you’re underwater; you can use identification guides to learn more about the marine life you’re swimming with; and you can take pictures (like the one below, taken with an iPad) of all your underwater adventures. The possibilities are nearly endless.

Caribbean reef sharks near Danger Reef in the Exuma Land and Sea Park, Bahamas.

Caribbean reef sharks near Danger Reef in the Exuma Land and Sea Park, Bahamas.

Over the next few weeks, we will be exploring some of those options and we want to hear from you! If you could take your iPad underwater, what would you do with it? Are there apps you would like to use? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

Copyright © 2014 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .

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  1. Allie says:

    I would take videos! Observations of behaviors are great, but what about re-watching all that once you’re back to the surface?

  2. Dave says:

    Mapping out your dive would also serve as a safety precaution. You could stay in contact with your team/boat with a bluetooth link and that open line of communication could potentially help save lives and/or make data gathering more efficient.

  3. Nick Thake says:

    When working on coral health studies you could use the ipad to look at a previous picture of a tagged colony to ensure you are looking at the correct coral, and then use it to take a photo, the resolution should be good enough to perform CPCe analysis. This saves multiple lanyards, slates and cameras! I do not think Bluetooth will be capable underwater, however there are other communications which may work if a dongle is able to fit inside the housing

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