Main Technological Fields of Research
We drive the following three innovation fields in ocean research & technology:
- Telepresence means to experience the abyss by means of sensors, efficient data transmission and visualization in real time, as if you were there yourself. Take, for example, 360° surround video on diving robots, or the transmission of high-resolution video to shore, involving partners ashore in real-time research activities at sea.
- 3D-ocean floor mapping at resolutions down to a few millimeters using modern techniques of photogramemtry, volumetric hydroacoustics and laser scanning. The more complete, precisely resolved and efficient we capture the ocean floor, the better we succeed at digitally reconstructing it back in the lab.
- Immersive Visualization, i.e. the digital reconstruction of the seafloor as a virtual world surrounding the spectators back in the lab, free of the logistical and material constraints of a seagoing expedition. The span of our harware implementations goes from laptops to head mounted displays all the way to spatially immersive simulators, surrounding the viewers, in order to let them both experience and quantitatively explore the seafloor.
In partnership with the scientific departments at GEOMAR and international partners we focus on highly dynamic biogeochemical seafloor processes, particularly in relation to submarine volcanology and hydrothermalism. These phenomena which have not yet been completely understood shape and reshape the seafloor within short spans of time. At the same time, they influence the unique biology of the deep ocean and ther interactions with ocean chemistry. The scientific questions around this group of topics determine our choice of digital working methods. Along these lines, we conduct methodical research and development in the fields of robotics, computer graphics, data management, and user studies on immersion and reception. Three cross-cutting topics interest us most:
- Time-critical processes: Research at sea is costly - a remotely operated vehicle at depth costs about one Euro per second. At the same time, seafloor volcanoes are highly dynamic phenomena. The relevant decisions and actions must be made right now at sea, and cannot be procrastinated to later shore based office time. This is particularly true for operational and scientific risk assessment.
- Synoptics: The fascination and the great scientific opportunity of modern ocean research lies in the scanning of large areas, not just any more extremely localized case studies. Only once we look at the big picture, we see emergent scientific questions. For example, we can show that a geological map looks entirely different when drawn on the basis of just a few video transects as opesd to a complete photogrammetric map without any gaps.
- Transdisciplinarity: Our research topics and the high-tech methods we apply to them are also relevant for arts and science communication - provided, they are carefully curated. Digital models of the ocean and digital twins of our working methods are of interest to a wide public audience. Thus, we engage in arts and cultural exhibits as well, together with parthers in those fields.