Open Source Robot Lets Anyone Explore the Oceans

OpenROV/Video screen capture

Want to explore the ocean but don't feel like getting a scuba license, or getting wet at all? This robot that will do the swimming for you, and beam live video and data back to your computer screen. The OpenROV is the work of Eric Stackpole, who created it as a way to check out an underwater cave near his home. Once it was built, Stackpole decided it would be a good idea for everyone to have access to the technology, so he made it an open source project.

About the size of a shoe box and weighing in at 5.5 pounds, the OpenROV is powered by three motors and runs on batteries. It can be equipped with cameras and sensors as well as other payloads, and is connected to a computer by an ethernet cable. It's been successfully tested in salt water as deep as 20 meters (it's designed to hit 100m). As you can see from the image, it's no multi-million dollar NASA creation; Stackpole describes it as "definitely a maker product." And that's the point.

Stackpole designed the OpenROV to be low cost and easy to build, yet still a respectable scientific instrument; he wants to democratize ocean exploration. To work out the kinks, he wants everyone to pitch in by testing out their own model. To fund the production of DIY kits, he turned to that most democratic source of funds: Kickstarter. The OpenROV was funded in a matter of days, doubling its $20,000 target.

While this robot won't reach depths that scientists (or movie makers, or business tycoons) haven't explored yet, it could do a lot to spark interest in the field among young innovators, possibly leading to new technologies that will show us what that unseen 95% of the oceans looks like.

Tags: Gadgets | Kickstarter | Oceans