In 2007, Google treated the world with the launch of Street View, offering users the ability to explore the world from the comfort of their desk. Together with Google Earth it offered people an unparalleled insight into the world around us.
The company then turned their attention to Mars, offering star gazers the chance to explore the Red Planet. The Moon has also had a similar treatment. It is often said however that we know less about the depths of our oceans than we do the surface of the moon, something the latest Google project is setting out to rectify.
Catlin Seaview Survey is a new project between Google and the University of Queensland that aims to give web users a photographic tour of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
The project attempts to give viewers the ability to learn as much as possible about the health of the reef by providing a panoramic photographic and video survey.
“For the first time in history, we have the technology available to broadcast the findings of an expedition through Google. Millions of people will be able to experience the life, the science and the magic that exists under the surface of our oceans,” says the survey’s chief scientist, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg of the University of Queensland in Brisbane.
Thus far only a few surveys have been undertaken, with the project set to kick off fully in September when multiple surveys will be conducted along the 2,300 kilometre long reef.
“Issues with water clarity, low light conditions and light distortion underwater called for a very different camera set-up to Street View. The development of the camera has been carried out independently from Google using underwater photography specialists. The result is a very different panoramic camera,” says Vevers.
After trying out the virtual dive, Buki Rinkevich, a coral reef expert with Israel’s National Institute of Oceanography in Haifa, is impressed. “This virtual dive in the reef is a fascinating experience that may well bring their 3D beauty to the public,” he says.
In future, he would like to see the Catlin team give viewers the option of revealing more information about marine life, coral polyps and other reef structures in shot to add to the educational aspect.