Wednesday, August 1, 2012

OpenROV will change exploration of last true frontier

From Forbes

Robots are immensely cool and allow us to learn more about the world  we see every day.
OpenROV is “cooler” because it lets us explore and learn about the world we can’t see; the last frontier of which we see only the surface usually.

Although there are many, many terrific projects on KickStarter , this ranks as my all-time favorite to date.
The OpenROV project is an open-source underwater robot for exploration and education. Their goal is to provide kits for the DIY community.

On their blog, they announced that they have a small section of the forum dedicated to adventures - a place to collect research and exploration ideas.
David Lang, co-founder, writes: “For us, it’s important to keep in mind why we want to build it and all the fun we’re going to have once everyone has one.”

OpenROV, as a
 Do-It-Yourself telerobotics community is centered on underwater exploration and education.
Their robot is made of mostly off-the-shelf parts.
Probably not stuff you have laying around the shop, but ones you can easily acquire.
They have been prototyping the entire project at TechShop (done some open build type nights, too) and I’ve seen files uploaded to GitHub, Ponoko, and I’m sure there are others.

There appears to be a worldwide userbase much like the open source laser cutter project called Lasersaur.
I’d like to see if there’s one in the works up near me and get it out into the Hood Canal to visit one of the giant octopus known to be in those waters.
However, a buddy of mine had an underwater ROV that he built for another project and a giant octopus decided it looked like lunch.
Munch, munch.
I think the OpenROV is more affordable than his and maybe, maybe, slightly less painful to lose to a hungry cephalopod.

Here are the answers (from the official OpenROV Kickstarter post) to a few questions I know the tech makers, hackers, and inventors will  have:

How is the ROV controlled?

“Flying the ROV is a lot like playing a video game. The interface is hosted as a webserver from the ROV that allows you to control its movements with your computer’s keyboard and see it’s video feed on your screen. We’re also developing an interface that will use a USB game controller. Eventually, we plan to make the ROV controllable via the internet, and our hope is that developers who get the kit through this Kickstarter project will have ideas for how to help.”

What comes after Kickstarter?

“We want this to be a sustainable adventure. Our plan is to get user feedback from people who build and operate OpenROV’s to make the design even better and more fitted toward the community’s needs. We plan to continue selling OpenROV Kits (and assembled OpenROVs) on our website as well as payloads and accessories for specific uses. We also hope that by building a strong community of people who understand the hardware and its applications, we’ll be able to develop ways of doing better science and exploration in more remote and interesting places.”

Since I’ve spent a fair amount of time involved with underwater projects (former SCUBA instructor, guide, and dolphin research work) I’ll admit that I’m a bit biased about the importance of this project to humanity.
There are many important scientific ocean and marine experiments and university projects that will benefit from this underwater remote operated vehicle.
But if you think about some of the cool discoveries that have taken place in the ocean, you may decide to agree with me.

With 11 days left on their project, they have over-funded already, but that’s okay, go fund it some more.
Good projects can always use more funds to bigger and better things.

Links :
  • Co.Exist : OpenROV: A personal submarine for your underwater missions
  • NYTimes : A mini sub made from cheap parts could change underwater exploration
  • NASA : Open hardware exploration at NEEMO16 (video)