[Coral-List] Virtual Reality - 360 photos and video as a tool for coral reef research?

Jon slayer jonslayer at hotmail.co.uk
Mon Sep 26 11:13:13 EDT 2016

Thank you John for your reply and to all the others who sent messages privately. I really like the website you have set up, loads of data but also the 360 experience to bring the numbers to life - and I am jealous of the sharknado!
We are really keen to facilitate research using this technology and more than that develop our product to meet researchers needs. In line with that we have decided to offer 360bubble housings to any researchers from coral list who would like it for a drastic discount. We are working out the details of that now so I will email again in a couple of days when we have it all set up. All we would ask for in return is plenty of feedback on how the technology is working well for you and how it could be improved - and please share any great action you capture underwater too, we need more sharknados in our lives!
Until then I would like to summarize the feedback and discussion points we have fielded from our opening email to the list:
ResearchContext - As described in John Burn's email below 360 videos and Virtual Reality content are great for contextualizing research. The website links he provides are a particularly good example of integrating the data alongside an immersive VR experience of what the reef is like in real life.Live streaming - There are a lot of challenges to installing a long term live stream from the seabed but the utility to research is obvious. We are working on this at the moment and will keep the list updated with developments. 
Survey Benthic transects - the cameras can be set to interval shoot (a requirement for compatibility with Google Street View captures) which is really useful for recording transects. I see utility for the cameras in maximizing output from field time by allowing researchers to swim transects with the 360 Camera and, rather than recording the data manually during the dive which curtails the ground covered, instead take photospheres at regular intervals.One useful suggestion we have had is to provide information on inverting the housing on a quadrant frame so that the housing base does not interfere with a clear view of the substrate. This could easily be done and provided the quadrant frame weighed in at 8-10 pounds would make the whole neutrally buoyant underwater. Furthermore the housing with it's positive buoyancy working against the frames negative buoyancy would keep the structure oriented upright. The resulting images could be used for measurement of coral recruitment, growth, disease, species counts etc. Software such as Coral Point Count may be useful in extracting data from the images ( http://cnso.nova.edu/cpce/). If anyone is interested in the design for such a quadrant we would be happy to provide the build specifications.  BRUV - 360 imagery could enhance BRUV observation significantly. Rather than limiting observations to a rectangle in front of the camera the full view around the bait station can be observed. The globe of 360 video footage can also be stretched into a rectangular format (think Mercator projection) for ease of analysis. Fish Counts - manual fish counts are limited by the direction a researcher is looking at any one time and are particularly challenging when there are multitudes of fish swimming in a habitat. Photospheres shot at intervals over a transect would freeze the action allowing for accurate fish counts post dive.Remote filming or Live streaming - There is great potential for this to be used as a remote observation tool excluding the disturbance of the physical presence of a diving researcher from the environment. A 360 camera left to film remotely or a live feed could both lend themselves neatly to citizen science style involvement. 
Promotion Virtual reality experiences - I think the points on this are well illustrated by the example given in the education bullet point below. Virtual tours - Dive sites and research sites can be placed online to compliment research. A great example of this comes from John Burns in his email below. Live streaming - the utility of a live stream for promotion is well illustrated by video shot at the Maui Ocean Center recently immersing viewers in the middle of the open ocean tank https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAKI93zc8D8
Education - VR education modules were mentioned several times. These can be brought within reach by the accessibility of affordable technologies such as Google Cardboard (https://vr.google.com/cardboard/) which is cheap and turns any smartphone into a VR viewing device. Google Maps supports the creation of such modules on their platform https://www.google.co.uk/maps/about/behind-the-scenes/streetview/treks/yosemite/ .  
In addition there was also mention of using 360 video and 360 stills to translate into 3D representations of the coral reef that would have utility in all of the above fields. A good example is this educational game https://www.infinitescuba.com/ developed for Sylvia Earle. If anyone would like to discuss these in more detail please do get in touch as we would like to hear your ideas! One unexpected reply asked if we had a night vision capability - we've found a 360 camera that does that too!
Thanks for your interest!

From: johnhrburns at gmail.com
Date: Wed, 21 Sep 2016 07:38:15 -1000
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Virtual Reality - 360 photos and video as a tool for coral reef research?
To: jonslayer at hotmail.co.uk
CC: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov; saiorse.berney at hotmail.co.uk

Great work! I believe the interactive 360 imagery can be very informative and useful for outreach and public engagement.
You may be interested in our use of 360 video. We try to include 360 video and 3D reef models of our study sites, along with coral health data, so users can virtually 'see' and explore 'sites' to better contextualize the data. You can see the current videos/models on our website:
Main page: http://coralhealth.uhh.hawaii.edu/

Interactive map page: http://coralhealth.uhh.hawaii.edu/interactive-map

Research site: http://coralhealth.uhh.hawaii.edu/Kure-2012

I agree that as the camera systems become more accessible this work can benefit researchers. Not only do the images provide great visual representation of the site, but they can serve as baselines as well for monitoring long-term changes. 
Thanks for sharing information on the system you've developed.

On Mon, Sep 19, 2016 at 11:35 PM, Jon slayer <jonslayer at hotmail.co.uk> wrote:
Dear Listers,

We have been working on an underwater housing for a 360 camera and managed to trial it on a research expedition to the British Indian Ocean Territory earlier this year. There we captured underwater 360 video and on a subsequent trip to Cyprus captured a series of photospheres in various transects off the coast. The housing has since been picked up by Google and featured as a go to option for capturing user generated underwater 360 stills for posting to Street View and Google Maps.

Although we initially thought of the housing as an audiovisual tool for virtual reality documentaries to capture the expedition activities it occurred to me while trialing it that there should be great utility for it in coral reef research where the visibility is usually reasonably good and data could be extracted from the images. Then at the recent IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawai'i Google featured the housing in their Street View Expeditions presentation and we garnered a lot of interest at our shared stand with Mission Blue - Sylvia Earle Alliance. The very broad spectrum of participants at the conference thought of using our housing in some very novel ways - as a protective case in using 360 video in tiger research as an example! Some thoughts and links follow - I would be interested in a discussion exploring how we might use or adapt this technology for coral reef research.

In research there have been a number of suggestions, fish counts, benthic studies and BRUV work amongst others. We also had a couple of separate discussions about using the technology for damage assessments and evidence collection after ship groundings. I would welcome further suggestions for us to explore.

The technologies obvious use is as a tool for promotion and education of the marine environment. Marine Reserves could utilize the material to illustrate the wealth of their protected areas, tour operators could promote the experiences underwater in their area of operation. Researchers could illustrate the environment with an immersive VR experience to contextualize their work.

Linked to the point above is the opportunity for community engagement. From my work with Blue Ventures in subsistence fishing communities it is apparent that large portions of the population who are dependant on marine resources do not enter the water. Only the fishermen do. This technology would be a great way to immerse the broader community in the coral reef environment and give them a greater understanding of how it works and why conservation and management is important.

My last point is one of cost which was certainly the barrier to me getting involved in this sort of equipment when it first came onto the scene a few years ago! The cameras we are using are inexpensive consumer cameras so should be affordable for most research operations as the whole underwater package comes in at well under $1000. Further to that, Google offer a loan program of camera equipment, particularly to places that are poorly covered by Street View. Often the remote sites for marine research fit into this category!

Here is an example photosphere posted to Google Maps - https://www.google.com/maps/@34.9920803,34.0746083,3a,75y,95.55h,78t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s-cRdnb8z-KT4%2FV8cHKSkEEYI%2FAAAAAAAABc8%2F4JtvYJ12ZiMXTh8gAh579OR8tAohECoagCLIB!2e4!7i5376!8i2688!6m1!1e1 (you can navigate to other photospheres in the series using the arrows that appear on screen)

And a 360 video left in place on a coral reef - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BU6XpNac-g

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Best Regards,

Jon Slayerwww.jonslayer.tvwww.theta360bubble.com


Coral-List mailing list

Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov


John Burns
EPA STAR Research Fellow
Hawai`i Institute of Marine Biology
PO Box 578
Papaikou, HI 96721

More information about the Coral-List mailing list