The Design
The idea of haptic technology or kinaesthetic communication is to harness the sense of touch by applying forces, vibrations or motions to the user. The Buddy Watcher is a wrist- or arm-mounted device that employs ultrasound frequencies to set off a vibrating alert on a uniquely paired unit, illuminating at the same time a series of small red LED lights.
The range on land is only a few inches but this is claimed to extend to as much as 20m under water. A rechargeable internal battery is sealed inside each unit and is charged via a clip-on facia with gold-plated connections. The charging lead is split so that two units can be charged simultaneously from a single USB connector via a mobile phone plug or computer.
The Buddy Watcher is constructed using high-grade plastics and comes in black with fluorescent green inserts and buttons. Two large buttons are set on top of the unit, one to set up and pair the devices, and one to call your buddy.
A transparent panel allows the viewing of a series of tiny red coloured LEDs that light up when a call is made or received.
The units are depth-rated to 40m. An elasticated mounting band with Velcro fastening completes the specification.

In Use
I fully charged both units a day before setting off to the airport, and took them on our first dive but the batteries were already as dead as a dodo, within two days of charging.
I couldn’t be sure if I turned them off before packing or whether they failed to hold their charge. So I recharged them back in my hotel room and took them with me for the following morning’s two-tank dive.
Once set up and paired, the units were placed on our upper arms to keep them from obstructing our wrist-mounted dive computers. In this position we found it easy to access and depress the call-buttons.
The first dive was on the wreck of the Lesleen M, a great testing ground for haptic technology. I left Joyce on the seabed at the bow of the wreck and swam away, keeping her in sight as
I systematically depressed the call button while increasing the distance between us.
I could see her red LED bank illuminate, confirming that she was getting “buzzed”.
The signal was sent and received up to an estimated distance of around 18m before the units failed to communicate with each other.
The vibrations were very distinctive, and difficult to ignore. On one occasion when I was concentrating on photography Joyce pressed her call button and startled me.
I turned to find her with a mischievous grin, finger perched on her bright green call button with an “It wasn’t me” expression plastered on her Chevy Chase.
I was wondering if the signal would be received if a steel-plated hull section separated us, so I left her to peer through a porthole opening while I swam to the other side.
It worked, but I can’t be sure if the signal was transmitted through the hole or through the metal plates.
We were surprised and disappointed to find that the batteries on both units had died halfway through the second dive, leaving us to revert to the old-fashioned, tried and tested methods of banging on our tanks to communicate.
Admittedly we were pressing our buttons more than we would have on a normal outing, but one-and-a-half dives?

Conclusion
The Buddy Watcher system will enhance the enjoyment of your dives and, in any case, being able to communicate with your buddy is an essential requirement for diver safety.
The Buddy Watcher performed this task well, with the added advantage of keeping the comms private and targeted.
I was however, very dissatisfied by the power source. The batteries had to be charged immediately before each dive to ensure that they didn’t fade, an annoyance at best.
In a modern world in which portable power technology is king, there has to be a better solution.
I hope the guys behind this innovative and useful product can get this sorted out, because if they do they could be onto a winner.

PRICE 120 euros
DEPTH RATING 40m
RANGE Up to 20m in water
CHARGING USB, dual lead
CONTACT www.buddy-watcher.de
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