Scientists from the National University of Singapore’s Tropical Marine Science Institute have created a new echo sonar inspired by dolphins.
The new invention is unique because it uses a new processing method that allows for better underwater visual imaging.
The new compact sonar takes into account the sparsity of objects in the water, which helps improve the interpretation of the echoes. This ability is supposed to mimic the current hypothesis about dolphin sonar which supposes the dolphins use pre-existing information about their environment in addition to the echoes to interpret those echoes better.
The new device is small, around 25cm/10 inches in diameter and about the size of a dolphin’s head, and emits sharp echolocation clicks similar to a dolphin. Due to its size and new processing ability, the new sonar has many new applications, from underwater ROVs to military applications.
According to Dr. Hari Vishnu, a Senior Research Fellow at NUS TMSI:
“Using prior information, such as the idea of sparsity, is intuitive. It is something humans do all the time – we turn our understanding of reality into expectations that can speed up our inferences and decisions. For example, in the absence of other information, the human brain and vision system tend to assume that in an image, the light on an object will be falling from above.”
You can find the original study here.