A diving NERD at heart…

The Shearwater NERD.

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image courtesy of Shearwater Research

Seriously, this is the best thing to happen to dive computers and rebreathers …ever.  Especially if you are photographer or videographer.  I feel so strongly about this that I will go on record saying I think that they should be standard issue on all rebreathers.

HUD’s or Heads up displays are the future of pretty much everything where we are sharing our attention.  Human nature is such that we tend to de-prioritized (I won’t go so far as to say ‘ignore’ but you get my drift) things that are a bit inconvenient.

The Air Force has been using them for ages ago so that pilots could keep their eyes on the prize.  Car manufacturers are investigating the use of HUD’s to make our time on the road in the distracted world safer.

So why has diving (rebreather diving specifically) been relegated to the back seat so to speak?  Left to some blinking lights that unless you and your buddy were trained on the same device you may or may not understand what message it’s code is trying to convey. Well, obviously demand plays a big roll, the technology can be expensive and is essentially the manufacturing equivalent of slightly more than one-offs when you look at making a product for a ‘minority in a minority’ so to speak (closed circuit rebreather divers).    Don’t get me wrong, I believe the rock solid blinking LED HUD’s are still an excellent backup but they are not the end all be all.

Oceanic-DataMask-HUD

image courtesy of oceanic

Years ago we saw HUD masks popping up at the annual Diving Equipment Manufacturers Association trade show.  These were generally clunky devices and equipment tech in its infancy selling to the ‘gotta have the newest toy’.  The problem was, for recreational open circuit (bubble blowing) diving what do you have on your screen and how do you get it there.

The first most important thing piece of information to have when you are exploring inner space is gas supply.   If you had nothing else, this would still be an improvement over having the flail around and find your pressure gauge (talk about dark ages folks!) even clipped off it takes time and inconvenience to get a look at it.  Well, unless you are like me and say ‘to heck with style points’ and just clip it to your left chest d-ring.It is beyond me why as divers we would continue to let our most important information be cumbersome to access.

pressure_gauge

image courtesy of GUE

Sounds simple enough, right?  Got a mask with some kind of HUD, got a computer that can transmit pressure data?   Yeah, no such luck.  There are few if any standards in the diving industry and more often than not the toys don’t play well together.

If you already have a nice dive computer, you are really not going to be jumping for joy at the opportunity to fork over another $1000 to get an Oceanic DataMask or another system and be locked into their ecosystem.

So we’ve established that remaining air supply is a great thing to have a blink away, what about depth, time, remaining no-deco (or deco) time.  Yes, all great things that I want to have on hand.    Then add the complexity of Closed Circuit Rebreather tech.   You are no longer facing the time pressure of a waning tank of gas, but there are other things just as deadly that warrant our attention.

I want to see my Partial Pressure of Oxygen (PPO2), I want to be able to watch it, see how my sensors are fairing.  You can diagnose a whole host of things by simple observation 🙂  I fly my eCCR manually with the solenoid as a parachute (this means I manually add Oxygen as opposed to wait for the solenoid to kick in) so it is imperative for me to have PPO2 right there.

To add a bit to the chaos factor, if you hadn’t figured it out yet, I’m an underwater videographer.   This means my bandwidth is additionally gobbled up by things like light placement, exposure, shutter speed, ISO, white balance, framing the shot, maintaining position, directing talent (fish don’t take direction well), where my buddy is hiding, etc…

Predator_v1-1

image courtesy of Shearwater Research

Imagine this scenario if you will.  The shot of a lifetime all lined up, and now you are waiting, holding very very still waiting for whatever it is to happen.  You are making micro adjustments to focus.  You are monitoring your PPO2 via the blinky light HUD, but now you are a bit curious as to how long you’ve been waiting and how much decompression you are racking up.  If you move the camera (assuming its not on the tripod) at all to check your gauges, I guarantee that is the most likely time whatever it is you are shooting is going to do whatever it is you are waiting for.  Add an additional layer of complexity, lets say its night time!  Do you have just a depth gauge/bottom timer or a fancy OLED brightly lit computer on your wrist?  I highly recommend something that you can see at night without having to shine a light on your gauge.

Enter the NERD (Near Eye Remote Display).

NERD-infographic

image courtesy of Shearwater Research

Gone are the days where I have to move my arm into my line of sight to see pertinent information.  Gone are the days where you can tell in the video when I checked my computer because just like in driving, where the eyes go, so go the hands.  Gone are the days where I might just shrug and say to myself “I’ll check things later, after I get the shot”.

I specifically choose my dive gear based on a few factors, but the most important one to me is that it is ‘invisible’.  What I mean by that is I never ‘notice’ it on a dive.  It is reliable, solid, and just does its job.  Things are where they are supposed to be, there are no extra dangly bits to get caught (goodness knows with camera arms and lights and handles and scooter and and and I have enough crap hanging off me).  It just works.  I don’t worry about it, I maintain it, rinse it after dives, check it over and it does its job. period.  Any new item of gear I add to the menagerie must pass that test.  It must make my life ‘easier’ and/or reduce bandwidth usage so I can focus on the job at hand.

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image courtesy of Shearwater Research

The NERD does just that.  It is reliable, it is right there in front of my favorite mask giving me all the pertinent data.  It displays the information in a recognizable form (I don’t have to figure out a new computer or try to suss out where some info is) because I’m already used to using the Shearwater predator on the ISC Megalodon CCR, but also because its quite intuitive.  The most important thing, current PPO2 is right there, in my face, all the time.

nerd-compass

image courtesy of Shearwater Research

Did I mention it has a compass as well?  Yeah, no more worrying about having your arm level or the bezel pointed the correct direction, or getting the little side window up to you line of sight.  Again, right there, in front of your face, exactly where its needed, when it’s needed.

I’ve gone on and on about the benefits of this brilliant piece of equipment, so you are probably wondering “Is there anything you don’t like about it Laura?”   Hmm..   Well, not really.  Perhaps the attachment system, but once get the little clasp sorted out to the correct size it just stays right there next to my mouthpiece on the DSV/loop.

Oh wait… there is one thing…  The other night we were scootering in the bioluminescence… We turned off our lights… I had to tilt the NERD down so that I could fully enjoy the underwater starry night 😉

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