Establishing a Center for Telepresence & Dive Review

Chris German, Geology & Geophysics



This proposal seeks to establish a new DOEI Center for Telepresence and Dive Review at WHOI.  This capability would be established in a dedicated space, immediately adjacent to the Clark Laboratory on the Quissett Campus, where it would be readily accessible to any WHOI-based scientists wishing to participate in future deep ocean research cruises, remotely but in real time, through the power of telepresence.  While telepresence technologies are not new – they have been pioneered for more than a decade through Bob Ballard’s Ocean Exploration Trust (OET) and NOAA’s Ocean Exploration program – they are rapidly approaching a tipping point.  Until now, live broadcasts from the seafloor from ROV expeditions have primarily been conducted from dedicated ships such as the OET’s EV Nautilus and NOAA’s OkeanosExplorer but since January 2013, NSF and ONR have been working with WHOI’s National Deep Submergence Facility to add these same capabilities to the Jason ROV, the RV Atlantis and the new Ocean Class vessels currently under construction.  Further, while past priorities from OET and NOAA-OE have focused on using telepresence for outreach and exploration, my own recent work has demonstrated that telepresence can also be effective for research and education - not just in the case of ROV dives where live video feed from the seafloor to the beach is complemented by two-way communications between shore-based scientists and the at-sea control van - but also in cruises using AUVs and even more conventional (e.g.  CTD-based) research.  While the technological advances at sea are being advanced rapidly with UNOLS support – not least because they recognize an imminent need as large multi-berth Global class ships are replaced by smaller Ocean Class vessels – WHOI is at risk of falling behind other marine laboratories because it lacks a dedicated center from which WHOI based scientists can routinely participate in telepresence-enabled cruises. 

I anticipate that the time will soon come when NDSF-based cruises, at least, will utilize telepresence methodologies as standard (NSF have just invited me to lead an INSPIRE proposal investigating how to help develop just such “best practices”) in which case any new DOEI center would likely become very heavily used at WHOI.  In the first instance, however, it is unlikely that a new DOEI center would be used to support telepresence cruises 24/7, 365 days a year.  What I also propose, therefore, is that the same center be enhanced with a dedicated 12TB RAID array connected to the center’s video monitor and computer arrays so that, between “live” cruises, the center could also be used by any WHOI scientist wanting to review past dive (or other) data (Jason and Alvin can now collect multiple streams of HD video data from each dive).  This capability should be sufficient to upload at least one cruise worth of data at a time to this local RAID array and provide the specific advantage that this approach would provide the user with a much more immersive experience in which to recreate past dives, away from the distractions of their regular office space, taking advantage of the multiple video screens provided to be able to replay multiple video feeds from our state of the art vehicles, in parallel.