The world's first 'turbo' flipper has been developed - and the Professor who invented it claims it can turn humans into amphibians who 'fly through water.'
The pioneering flipper combines a regular monofin with a small torpedo between the ankles which pushes the swimmer through the water like a 'sea animal.'Inventor Professor Marek Swoboda explained that a sensor measures the force of the swimmer's kick and boosts them according to how much effort they apply - much like an e-bike does.
The 'Amphi' flipper will enable divers to spend less time coming up for air and more time exploring reefs.Turbo snorkelers, clipped into cycle cleats, will also be able to swim for long distances through shallow water above ocean shelves.Project manager Ginger Kuczowicz, who has tried out the device, said: "I was told 'just do your dolphin kick, don't think too much about it' and it worked like a charm.
"I kicked and I felt this gentle, yet powerful push from behind, as if a giant hand pushed my feet through the water.
"I spread my hands and felt a little bit like I belong here, underwater.
I was a mermaid.
I am sorry, an Amphinaut."Budding mermaids will be able to adjust the turboprop's power through a smart-phone application according to how energetic they are feeling.And a GPS system will track the snorkeler's route through the water which can later be shared with friends.
In the case of an emergency, swimmers can unclip the Amphi and use it as a handheld device to thrust them out of danger.
Prof Swoboda, 51, a bioengineering lecturer at Drexel University in Philadelphia, US, came up with the idea after trying out a regular monofin in his native Poland.He said: "We can use bionic sensing to control our propulsion, we can feel like otters or seals - be nimble and quick, and at the same time conserve our precious oxygen."Prof Swoboda,added: "To use a standard monofin well you have to have almost perfect technique and excellent core strength."But with the Amphi you move with minimal physical effort.
It is a completely new way of experiencing the water."The design is still in the prototype stage but Marek hopes the final product will be able to reach up to nine knots, considerably faster than the current handheld water scooters.But the added speed through the water brings risks including barotrauma, the dangerous expansion of air in the diver's lungs when surfacing too quickly.To prevent that, a training service will be provided and free tutorials made available on YouTube.The design was introduced at the Las Vegas DEMA underwater equipment convention last year where traders told Marek it was the first new idea they had seen in two decades.
Prof Swoboda,, who spent nine years in industry as a research and development director before returning to academia, was worried the design would require several prototypes before it worked 'beautifully' on first testing.The flipper - which will cost between £1,750 and £2,000 - is not yet available to buy, but Marek is planning to release Amphi globally if he manages to raise enough cash through his crowdfunding effort.
Watersports centres and holiday resorts are excited about getting their hands on Amphi which they predict will be a big hit with holidaymakers.And Amphi has been a particular hit with the Japanese who are 'going crazy' for the turbo fin, according to Prof Swobod.Now he plans to pair Amphi's GPS system with a device to measure sea pressure, temperature and salinity - the basic parameters scientists use for studying the quality of sea water.He added: "I am very passionate about watersports so it was a natural instinct to make something to help people learn about the sea and protect it."