What is Oceangate?

Since 2009, OceanGate has focused on serving the marine subsea market through manned submersible solutions developed from innovations in engineering, material science and technology from other commercial sectors. The company’s fleet of untethered, self-contained manned submersibles enables teams of experts to collaborate while performing a variety of industrial, research and exploration tasks in harsh and challenging subsea environments.(1)

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What is Second Life?

Second Life is a 3D world where everyone you see is a real person and every place you visit is built by people just like you. Travel with friends to thousands of beautiful and exciting places — all created by the Second Life community. Every day there are thousands of new experiences and events created by the Second Life community.(2)

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What is the iSCHOOL?

We are a community of professionals focused on diverse areas of expertise relating to the study of information and its use by people and organizations. Informatics majors have a passion for making a difference through information and technology. They design, build, manage and secure systems to meet the needs of people, organizations, and society.(3)

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Oceangate Submersibles

OceanGate Inc. is a privately held company which since 2009, has focused on serving the marine subsea market through manned submersible solutions...for industry, research and exploration(1) Historically, the cost of operating manned submersibles has been prohibitively high. Between maintenance costs, mobilization costs, and need for massive ships to transport and launch them, traditional Manned Underwater Vehicles (MUVs) cost upwards of $45,000 a day to operate.

OceanGate has broken this trend by producing an MUV with a lightweight carbon fiber hull, no need for a tether, and a Mobile Subsea Launch and Recovery System (MSLARS) which can serve as a transport and operation platform in lieu of a large commercial/research vessel. These modifications have brought operation costs down to approximately $20,000 a day. 

MUVs have the unique ability among submersibles to get very close to targets at great depths. With the production of this comparatively low-priced vehicle, and through the use of strategic partnerships, OceanGate is drastically lowering the cost of entry for subsea initiatives. They intend for their vehicles to be used for everything from research to inspection to defense and even for underwater film production.

The company’s fleet of untethered, self-contained manned submersibles enables teams of experts to collaborate while performing a variety of industrial, research and exploration tasks in harsh and challenging subsea environments(1)

Cyclops I

The newly designed submersible, to function as a test platform for technology to be deployed on the 3,000 meter deep Cyclops II.

Antipodes

Antipodes is a manned submersible that enables commercial and scientific applications for researchers, scientists, filmmakers and content providers. It will soon be replaced by the newer Cyclops I submersible.

Cyclops 1 new features include an enhanced automated control system to monitor life support, power management, navigation and other critical system diagnostics. Using a combination of Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) technology and innovative system architecture designed by the Applied Physics Lab at the University of Washington and OceanGate’s internal engineering group, the automated control system is revolutionizing how manned submersibles operate by reducing time spent on vehicle control and increasing time to achieve mission objectives. This control system also improves mission safety, reducing opportunity for user error.

OceanGate’s Cyclops program was developed to meet increased demand from government and commercial clients worldwide as they continue to look for the next generation of subsea technology to address the challenges associated with deepwater operations. Cyclops 1allows OceanGate to deploy a current asset as a working prototype for developing technology and software for use in future submersible programs, demonstrating the company’s continued ability to efficiently utilize resources and yet not lose the ability to innovate.

The Virtual Experience

While OceanGate has drastically lowered the price of entry for those looking to explore the deep sea, operating these vehicles is still not cheap. Sending people out in submersibles for training and demonstration purposes is a time-consuming and expensive process. However, with an effective virtual simulation, OceanGate could reduce the costs of training, create better-prepared pilots, and more closely monitor which areas of preparedness need attention before high-stakes missions in the physical ocean.

As Chalmers noted in The Oxford Handbook of Virtuality(6) [Virtual environments] offer the possibility of simulating potentially complex, dangerous, or threatening real-world experiences in a safe and controlled manner. They can provide a powerful and customizable tool for personalized training that allow the attributes of human behavior in such environments to be examined."(5)

Currently, OceanGate has no virtual simulation to prepare the crew for subsea missions prior to orientation using a real MUV. When OceanGate stated that they were interested in working with a UW team to create a virtual model for simulation purposes, we were eager to get involved. we wanted to stretch our virtual world-building skills and apply what we'd learned about immersive environments to a compelling underwater experience that would highlight the benefits of virtual training to OceanGate and bring the wonder of submersibles for deep-sea exploration to our peers in Second Life.

While an environment like Second Life can only go so far in emulating actual controls for a submersible, virtual training takes place in complete environments intended to mimic real-life conditions. As such, rather than simply recreate their product, we designed an environment in which the underwater submersible could be used to carry out specified tasks. This will highlight the spatial immersion of the given environment and allow users to see how the Cyclops will improve tomorrows underwater excursions.

Our virtual tour

Our tour will be conducted in Second Life, which all members of our class already have. We will send out a SLURL via Sococo to ensure everyone arrives at the right location. When participants arrive, they will find themselves between the docks and our Visitor Center. If you want to visit this location yourself, use the SLURL "http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/UW%20Avalumni/248/200/22/"

OceanGate SL Dock

When participants arrive, they will find themselves between the docks and our Visitor Center.

OceanGate SL Visitor Center

Our visitor center in Second Life features models of the submersible, as well as additional information about the project and OceanGate.

Leaking Pipeline

Shutting off a gas leak in the ocean is one of the first scenarios we have in the simulation, using the Cyclops' robotic arm.

Underwater Scavenger Hunt

We have created an interactive Scavenger Hunt for people to participate in while driving the submersible in our artifical ocean.

Creatures of the Deep

Our undersea area has fish and other underwater images that reflect OceanGate's experience with the Puget Sound.

Underwater Flora

We also mimicked Puget Sound with jellyfish and seaweed, which are viewed from inside the Cyclops I.

Sunken Ship

Along the way, our users might run into treasure chests with rewards, if they are the first to arrive at a destination. Each treasure chest contains $5 linden and de-spawns when claimed.