The future of underwater exploration can fit in your handbag, according to the Makers at Berkeley-based OpenROV. Their small, maneuverable robots operate as miniature submarines, giving a clear view of the world below the surface. They can be piloted by anyone with a laptop, and you can see them in action—and operate them!—this Sunday at the East Bay Mini Maker Faire.
OpenROV founders Eric Stackpole and David Lang call their inventions “drones” and refer their motion as “flying,” rather than “swimming,” because of the smooth propulsion of their machines. The OpenROV is the size of a toaster and can go as deep as 100 meters.
In their water tank at the Faire, OpenROV team members will show some of their half-dozen models under development, including their latest Trident flier and their “2.8 ROV,” still in a prototype stage. Like their previous models, they come with video cameras and open-source software, along with a host of new features.
The newest innovation may be their eventual integration with the Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset, allowing a user to “see” through the lens of the drone and to control it with a tilt or turn of the head. “It gives you a sense of what it’s like to be a fish,” says Thomas Moye of OpenROV.
Many people think ocean exploration is “something that professional scientists do, that National Geographic explorers do. That’s not something that I get to do,'” Lang said. The notion that the underwater world is accessible to us, “that’s what we’re trying to instill back in everyone.”
Watch the video of the new Trident model: