Bring on the ideas: America's Dragons Den
HERE ARE EXAMPLES of the hand-written placards worn by some of the many people to be seen begging on the crowded Strip at Las Vegas: “Obese – Need Food” and
“Too Ugly To Be A Prostitute.” The expression “Only in America” comes to mind.
This is the Nevada city that tries to be the ultimate glorification of the spirit of conspicuous consumption in a country that worships the dollar.
It’s where you’ll find glitzy hotels with iconic names such as Caesar’s Palace, the Mirage, Bellagio, the Venezia, the Flamingo and Harrahs, all working together to ensure that visitors go home with their pockets empty.
It was also the location for the recent annual US diving trade show, DEMA.
Away from the cacophony of noise, oppressive hustle and bustle of the casinos, the roar of the massed one-armed bandits and the distraction of scantily clad women, the Sands Expo Centre was the place where the international diving trade met to chew the fat and show what they had to offer.
The world’s premier diving destinations had booths positioned cheek-by-jowl with all the equipment manufacturers, not only the long-established companies but those hoping to break into the market with what they perceived to be the underwater equivalent of the best
thing since sliced bread.
It’s often the “One-DEMA” product that provides the most entertainment for those seeking out the latest equipment.
These are the products displayed by those that have come up with an engineered solution to a problem that probably doesn’t exist, and which within 12 months may well sink without trace.
But this year, several of these apparently no-hope products did come back again, in a more developed form.
For example, there was the automatic buoyancy-control device that was shown around 15 years ago. It worked, as we proved with a DIVER Test at the time – it’s just that it seemed not to be needed. Most divers can manage a manual direct-feed and dump valve on their BC.
Not to be discouraged, a Swiss-based manufacturer has picked up the lapsed patent and combined the idea with a decompression computer. The SUBA series will be available pre-fitted to a conventional-style BC, a back-inflation BC or a technical diving wing with full CE-certification.
ANOTHER COMPANY optimistically displayed a device that monitored a diver’s breathing. Diver Guard fits in place of the BC direct-feed control, and if it detects inactivity for more than 30 seconds it will sound a siren.
If that doesn’t startle the diver back to life, it automatically fills the BC with air and sends the presumed-by-now-fatality back to the surface.
I’m sure few of us will rush to buy it, especially underwater photographers who habitually hold their breath to get that all-important shot.
Some years ago, we reported on an Israeli company that brought us underwater texting between divers.
It has exhibited its UTC computer, which can also text, at DEMA regularly every year since, but has been reticent about letting us have units to try.
Things might be changing in that quarter, however, because of competition from Liquivision, which makes those technical diving computers with the OLED display and tap-switch system. Liquivision has a new computer, the LYNX, which can not only be wirelessly gas-integrated with up to 10 tanks, but also receive texts from a boat unit – handy for diver recall, whether it’s an emergency or a call for lunch!
The texting is claimed to have a horizontal underwater range of more than a kilometre.
Another company, Innovasub, showed a highly finished housing complete with pressure sensor.
This can employ an app that will turn the iPhone, iPod, other smartphone, PDA or palmtop computer into a diving computer with an external module and a wide range of different algorithm options. It’s called the Divephone.
Casio, the Japanese watch giant, has come to the market with a diver-communication system that is activated orally and received aurally though the jawbone. Mounted on the mask, it’s called Logosease.
Its software promises to unravel the garbled speech of a diver with a regulator in the mouth, while the actual communication sent diver-to-diver is by ultrasonics. We’ll need to see what the consumer take-up is. Could we all end up chatting furiously during a dive
BY THE WAY, ANOTHER well-received OLED computer, the Shearwater Petrel, is now available with the Fischer connection for integration with closed-circuit rebreather equipment.
It’s been a year since we first saw the rivals to the Poseidon Discovery Mk6 in the recreational rebreather segment of the market. Now the Rec version of the APD Inspiration/Evolution has CE-certification, as has the semi-closed hybrid Oceanic/Hollis Explorer, which now has a bail-out valve cleverly integrated with the mouthpiece.
Hollis’s other fully closed technical rebreather, the Prism 2, is said to be enjoying buoyant sales, with more than 400 units already in use.
Dräger was a surprise exhibitor, with its traditional Lar 5 military unit.
One of the most intriguing new developments shown was a fully-fledged side-mount closed-circuit rebreather from Submatix. It was originally intended to be used as a bail-out rig for deep diving rather than for carrying multiple open-circuit tanks, but of course it could also be used as a stand-alone unit, such is its sophistication.
Oceanic demonstrated lots of novel thinking on its booth, including the Jetpack, a rucksack-style unit that can easily be used as aircraft carry-on but actually forms a BC as well as allowing users to carry all their basic leisure diving equipment on their person. Let’s see the airlines counter that!
Oceanic also showed the Aeris Manta, a wrist computer with dual-algorithm; the OCSi, a continuation of the OC computer range that comes with a wireless-integrated gas system; and the F10 freediving computer.
Cressi revealed plans for the Giotto, a slick three-button two-mix nitrox computer that follows on the heels of its successful home-produced Leonardo.
On the regulator front, Oceanic has reintroduced the once popular side-exhaust regulator with the Manta 3, together with the similar Hollis 500SE, which has useful extra configuration details for technical divers.
Atomic Aquatics showed its remarkable new super-lightweight titanium T3, which has been developed from the famously good T2x by, for example, paring away superfluous material from its first stage.
Other facelifted regulators included Scubapro’s G and R ranges, and the S range now available in a range of different metals and a variety of finishes, including a gold-look model.
These sat alongside an interesting display of virtually all the regulators ever made by Scubapro, bringing a tear to the eye of some older attendees as they reminisced about beloved but long-forgotten equipment.
Beuchat has facelifted its VX10 Iceberg, and Mares has made some needed internal improvements to its novel Instinct model, plus an unusually shaped heat-sink added to the first stage.
The Japanese/American company TUSA had an entirely new regulator on display, as did Sherwood with its SR-2, replacing the successful SR-1.
Apeks/ Aqua-Lung and Cressi had made some cosmetic improvements to their regulators.
There were no revolutionary new fins, at least none that had not been exhibited the year before, but Aqua-Lung showed its X-Shots, which are like Hot Shot and Sling Shot fins but now with silicone tensioning-springs hidden within.
TUSA with its Solla, Cressi, Oceanic and Scubapro, to name but a few, all had less extraordinary yet improved fin designs. Every other manufacturer appeared to be offering new fins, but they didn’t appear to be “wonderfins”.
MEETING THE DEMAND from divers who want to side-mount their tanks for open-ocean diving as opposed to cave-diving, several companies demonstrated side-mount rigs with corrugated hoses that could be swapped to feed from the top of the buoyancy cell, allowing for more vertical ascents. These included Custom Divers, Dive Rite and Hollis.
Of course, there were a huge number of new BCs of all types from the major manufacturers to be seen, each with their own unique selling propositions. Many were directed at women, but most BC and wings were simply evolutions from previous models.
It was the same with dive-bags, evolving this time with the accent on lightness of weight.
Many manufacturers showed new masks, usually with improved silicone-skirt technology, such as that brought along by Scubapro, with its flexible skirt ribbed for both resistance to collapse and comfort.
Seac showed the 360 snorkel with a revolutionary 360º valve mechanism which, we were told, allows the snorkel to drain yet keeps the water out when used at any angle.
There was plenty of sexy neoprene in the form of wetsuits visible all around the giant Sands Expo hall, but of course few of us can match the shape of the mannequins on which they were worn.
Apollo, a Japanese manufacturer that has little penetration of the UK market, showed a drysuit with manual dump-valves positioned at shoulder, cuff and ankle. That should take care of inversion problems!
Fourth Element showed its new drysuit, an item already familiar to those who attended the recent DIVE 2012 and Eurotek in the UK, and augmented this with some colourful Lycra rash vests for use in warmer conditions.
There were many other drysuits in evidence, not completely new to the market but illustrating continuing development. Waterproof promised that its Hybrid self-insulating suit would at last be made readily available. Aqua-Lung showed a zip-free undersuit.
A different novelty offering was the Scuba Buddy, a trolley system suitable for shore divers. It converts easily so that it can be taken on the dive as part of the underwater kit.
An enterprising Norwegian was at DEMA to show off SubWing, a steerable wing that could be used in conjunction with a speedboat to tow a snorkeller below the surface for either search and recovery missions, or simply for having fun in the sea.
UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY is a big and important sector of the diving business, but there appeared to be little really exciting on show, because all the housings that were developed for the raft of 2012 cameras had already arrived earlier in the year.
Some housing manufacturers such as Nauticam seemed optimistic that there might be bulk sales for the latest professional RED camera and displayed a new housing for it but I fear that few divers outside the pro rental market will be dropping into the water with a unit costing so many thousands of pounds.
Nauticam also offered a magnifying hood fitted to the LCD of its housings for mirrorless cameras, giving a DSLR feel. The other interesting item proved to be the carbon-fibre buoyancy arms made by Nauticam, available at a rather competitive price.
With more and more video being shot on high-end DSLR cameras such as the Canon 5D and Nikon D800, Dive And See showed an off-board monitor suitable for users, alongside a stand-alone submersible recorder unit.
Very promising was the product of a company called Vivid-Pi. It offered a simple software solution for easily improving colour rendition of pictures taken under water by the majority of divers, who simply record jpegs on compact cameras.
There has been some evolution in underwater lighting, notably with new products from Light & Motion that are brighter and said to last longer than before, including the Sola Tech 600 and the Sola Video 2000.
SOME YEARS ON, fluoro photography at last seems to have caught the imagination, with ultra-violet-emitting versions of the Sola lamps. A rather larger 4000-lumen unit was on display.
Keldan, the Swiss manufacturer of high-quality and hence phenomenally expensive underwater lighting, is concentrating on the professional end of the market and displayed an impressive 7000-lumen lamp, also available in a “high CRI” 5300-lumen version for vibrant and accurate colour under water.
I-Torch showed a range of diver’s lights that had batteries designed to survive flooding, alongside the I-pix smartphone camera housing.
Ikelite also had a new lamp, the 2000-lumen Vega, plus a welcome addition to its range of underwater flashguns, the Manta.
Fantasea, with its camera housings, has broken with its previous total allegiance to Nikon products, and now offers housings for some popular compact Canon models too.
It also showed a mini set-up with lights making use of the GoPro camera, plus a range of other LEDs including the BlueRay Extreme video light.
Epoque showed an amphibious camera, the Mini-DV, complete with a lamp that rivalled the GoPro for its small dimensions and competitive price.
SeaShell continues to offer a plastic housing that can be adapted to take a wide range of compact models, and this range has been extended as the possibilities increase.
It also revealed its housing for the iPhone range, allowing it to be used as an underwater camera.
Lastly, for those divers who already have everything, Green Force – which is based in Antwerp, the diamond capital of Europe, and well known for its powerful lamps and Hugyfot camera housings – offered a lamphead that was studded around its rim with diamonds.
It costs many tens of thousands of pounds, of course.