ARENA2 Visualization Laboratory

Realtime seafloor visualization in the ARENA2 projection dome

The ARENA (Artificial Research Environment for Networked Analysis) provides visualization services to all scientific disciplines at GEOMAR s well as associated Kiel based marine sciences, with an initial focus on seafloor geology.

The ARENA2 lab is the successor of the ARENA simulator (see below) and is in operation since January 2019. Our general goal is to provide tools to directly improve the scientific workflow by facilitating visual data exploration. Most importantly, we aim to make the system easy to use for anyone, with a minimum to zero learning curve, and a measurable impact on the desired scientific outcome.

ARENA2 is the core infrastructure of the Virtual Seafloor project, which is supported through a grant by the Cluster of Excellence "The Future Ocean" as well as a Phase 2 and 3b grant of the Helmholtz Excellence Network (Grant #18).

The PI of the project is lab head Dr. Tom Kwasnitschka.

Co-PIs of the various grants are:

Prof. Dr. Colin Devey (GEOMAR)

Prof. Dr. Isabella Peters (CAU Kiel)

Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Hasselbring (CAU Kiel)

Prof. Dr. Ansgar Scherp (formerly CAU Kiel)

Prof. Dr. Ilka Parchmann (CAU Kiel)

ARENA2 and the Virtual Seafloor Project are also well linked within GEOMAR, and receives support by the Digital Earth Initiative (Prof. Dr. Jens Greinert) and the general IT department (Mr. Sören Lorenz).

The main lab features at a glance

  • Housed within a custom made 6m x 7m x 6m hangar within the Lithothek on the GEOMAR estshore campus
  • A fiber glass reinforced projection dome of 6m diameter is suspended from the ceiling. Thus, the height above ground, tilt, and generally speaking the dome orientation can be arbitrarily chosen - a uniqe feature in the simulator and dome world.
  • A Wings VIOSO media server supports playback of 60 Hz stereoscopic content at resolutions up to 4400 x 4400 pixels.
  • Wings AVIO provides complete automation of all aspects of the lab. The system can be controlled from a cell phone - using it is as easy as going to the printer.
  • An Optitrack tracking camera array tracks the head motion of viewers for real time visualization
  • An OpenGL capturing workflow lets clients deploy any OpenGL based desktop software on the dome, including interaction with the data, head tracking and stereoscopic viewing. This means that there is absolutely no learning curve involved to use the simulator with your favourite tools.
  • A large collaborative wall screen and teleconferencing allow collaboration.

One of the most important goals of the ARENA concept is to enable collaboration and telepresence. The following assets are aimed at this functionality:

  • All live and pre-recorded imagery generated in the dome can be streamed to head mounted displays (and even other domes!) anywhere.
  • The OpenGL capturing workflow allows remote clients to participate in the visualization sessions.
  • A pool of head mounted displays and periphery are available to collaborators on a loaner basis, so you dont have to worry about setup.

ARENA Visualization Laboratory

ARENA is the previous version of our visualization lab. The semi-portable, fully immersive visualization environment was developed in-house since 2010 through core funding provided by the Cluster of Excellence "The Future Ocean". Viewers stand at the bottom of a lower hemisphere, surrounded by a curved screen that fills the entire field of view.

ARENA was conceived as a virtual working environment to address several challenges of modern deep-sea work:

  1. Geologists are trained to perceive their objects of study relative to their own presence, which usually involves going on field expeditions requiring practice and intuition. This is not possible in the deep ocean where scientists rely on robots, drones and remotely operated cameras. Time on the seafloor is at a premium and extremely costly, therefore a visualization environment allows using established on-land working methods decoupled from the physical and temporal constraints of actual fieldwork.
  2. It is difficult for deep-sea geologists to relay their field observations to colleagues since they may not have been present on the same seagoing expedition or the photographic material gathered is not effective in documenting a site. The ARENA allows four scientists to enter a simulation at the same time and discuss their science as if they were out in the field together.
  3. GEOMAR covers all aspects of marine research and it is often difficult to bring together the different scientific results in a meaningful context, even if they cover the same spatial extent. ARENA allows us to contextualize our observations with other data sets including a global topographic data set that always provides a common frame of reference.

Although ARENA was developed as part of a public outreach campaign of the Cluster of Excellence, it is currently only used for science with no regular public access, serving as a central hub for professional communication among scientists. It was recently set up at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, and will be on display at several other off-campus locations this year. A second system with 4.5 m diameter is available for use in regular office space.

Technical Data:

  • Capacity: 4 persons
  • Dome diameter: 6 m
  • Resolution across dome: 1600 px
  • Stereoscopic projection: No
  • Operating software: Microsoft Reseach WorldWide Telescope
  • User interfaces: Space Navigator, Xbox Controller, Kinect, tablet PC
  • Sound: 5.1 surround sound system
  • Weight: Approx. 1.5 tons
  • Footprint: 7.5 m x 7.5 m x 3.5 m


The ARENA in GEOMAR TV, Seq. 5 (in German)