Dynamics of the Ocean Floor

ARENA Visualization Laboratory

The Alps of the Southern Island of New Zealand

The ARENA (Artificial Research Environment for Networked Analysis) provides visualization services to all scientific disciplines at GEOMAR with a special focus on seafloor geology. 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)


Visualization of an MBARI AUV and Drifter experiment
Virtual fieldwork at the Grand Canyon
Earthquake hypocenters off Japan
The maintenance grid reveals the screen geometry.
The drum shaped ARENA tent is a self contained "room in a room".
Earthquake hypocenters along the Mid Atlantic Ridge
Virtual fieldwork using photogrammetric outcrop models


Dr. Tom Kwasnitschka
Tel.: +49 431/600-2136
Fax : +49 431/600-2924
Email: tkwasnitschka(at)geomar.de

GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel
Eastshore Campus
Wischhofstr. 1-3
D-24148 Kiel