Telepresence Is Transforming Underwater Exploration

In The New Yorker, GSO assistant professor Melissa Omand discusses how telepresence—real-time audio and video communications between research vessels and shore-based participants—allowed her to be the lead scientist of an R/V Endeavor research cruise even though she was located on land at the Inner Space Center on the URI Bay Campus. The technology is making ocean science and exploration more accessible: connecting multidisciplinary networks of scientists and allowing participants of all backgrounds and in any location to join research expeditions.

The University of Rhode Island was also home to the Inner Space Center (I.S.C.), a “mission control” for telepresence-enabled expeditions around the world. For more than five years, the I.S.C. had been conducting brief educational broadcasts from ship to shore and helping marine researchers tune in to transmissions from sea-based assets. But its larger goal was to convince scientists to try exploring from afar. Omand’s expedition could be a test run.

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