This electromagnetic shark gun is jawesome

The eSPEAR creates an electromagnetic field that can ward off a shark by targeting unique prey-sensing receptors in its nose.

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The Shark Shield eSPEAR is designed to be worn in a holster and deployed like a spear gun to deter sharks. 

Andre Rerekura/Ocean Guardian

The majority of sharks in the ocean don't want to turn you into lunch. 

But while avoiding a shark attack shouldn't require Jaws-level escape techniques (or the skills of noted shark-puncher Mick Fanning), you probably don't want a shark to get close enough to test the friendship. 

That's why Australian company Ocean Guardian is hoping to protect swimmers by using the shark's own biology against it. It has revealed the eSpear, a gun-shaped shark deterrent the company says can protect swimmers from shark attacks, while doing nothing more than giving the shark in question the equivalent of a headache.

Testing of an early Shark Shield prototype shows a shark reacting to the electromagnetic field. 

Ocean Guardian

The eSpear uses electromagnetic fields to interfere with sensors in the shark's nose (known as the ampullae of Lorenzini) that it uses to detect prey at close range. When it's deployed, the gun flips out a long barrel with two electrodes -- these create an electromagnetic field that repels the shark, according to Ocean Guardian, without causing any physical harm to the animal.

The company has kicked off an IndieGoGo campaign to sell the device, which will ship in May for AU$299 or $299 in the US. 

Ocean Guardian has also used the technology to create products for boats and surfboards and even an anklet for swimmers (though research has suggested the tech is more effective when the electrodes are spaced further apart).

While the predators have been known to attack electronic devices emitting low level electromagnetic fields, Lyon says the eSPEAR emits a field roughly 4,000 times stronger than a shark's prey (or an electronic device that a surfer might carry, like a GoPro).

Lyon is quick to point out that it's not a new technology -- research on the effect of electromagnetic fields stretches back more than a decade -- and that electronic deterrents reduce the likelihood of what is an already very unlikely event. He also notes that, like bike helmets and seat belts "nothing is 100 percent effective" in preventing deaths.

But for spear-fishers worried about luring predators with the sight and smell of their catch, or scuba divers swimming in open water, the eSPEAR is being marketed as "peace of mind". As one research paper aptly points out, shark attacks receive "an inordinate amount of media cover and interest, probably due to humans' psychological abhorrence of being eaten alive."

Well put. Though even with the technology, Lyon has advice for the cautious. 

"If you want to be 100 percent sure, just don't go in the water," he says. "Though after Sharknado, that's no longer the case."

Enlarge Image

The technology in action.

Ocean Guardian

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