XPRIZE Foundation Sparks Inventors’ Imaginations to Unveil Seafloor Mapping

Good morning, innovators.

Your mission from X Prize Foundation, should you choose to accept it, involves the recovery of underwater information from the least explored regions of our planet: the deep sea. You may select team members and recruit additional experts at any time throughout the global competition, but it is essential that you design and submit your self-reliant new technologies in time for a chance to make it to the top 25 teams and claim the $7 million award.

You can compete from virtually anywhere during the next 36 months. The global competition between the top teams will include two rounds of tests at ocean depths of 2,000 and 4,000 meters. As always, should any counsel be needed, the XPRIZE Scientific Advisory Board will offer a diverse range of expertise in matters of geophysics, oceanography, engineering, seafloor mapping, underwater vehicles, and ocean business.

On December 14th 2015, Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE’s extraordinary challenge set sail with the hopes of getting to know our little-known oceans a whole lot better. Although the ocean covers about 70 percent of Earth’s surface, we only have roughly 5-7 percent of that mapped out.  Bear in mind that the top 10 teams in the second round will compete at depths of over 13,000 feet with a goal to map 50 percent of the area within 12-15 hours with a 16.4-feet per pixel scanning resolution. As the BBC puts it, “Control and communications in the dark at 4,000m will be tough enough, never mind the consideration of pressure, which will be about 40 megapascals – nearly 6,000 pounds per square inch.”

Seafloor mapping competition schedule

It only makes sense that XPRIZE has partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and Shell Oil Company.

“Collectively, Shell, NOAA and XPRIZE are all aligned in our goals, which is really the discovery of what is down there, what’s in the deep ocean,” noted Dr. Jyotika Virmani, XPRIZE Prize Lead and Senior Director. “We want to help spur unparalleled ocean exploration through innovation and radical breakthroughs to find all the different wonders in the deep sea.”

The interdisciplinary treasure hunt seeks to drive new technologies for push advances in seafloor mapping and exploration through underwater robotics, computer science, digital imagery, along with a whole slew of groundbreaking angles. Teams’ creations have the potential to change the entire landscape of innovation in terms of “autonomy, scale, speed, depths and resolution of ocean exploration.” Any progress made in these ocean-scanning efforts could result in huge developments for other industries, such as robotic autonomy in space exploration or undersea scanning and resource scouting of microorganisms that could aid research and treatment of diseases.

“Spurring innovation and creating radical breakthroughs in ocean discovery are what excite us about collaborating with XPRIZE,” said Shell vice president of geophysics for the Americas David Schewitz. “Shell recognizes the need to leverage the full power of innovation: the capacity for doing things differently and better than before.”

global competition, deep sea, new technologies, undersea scanning

The competition is a component of XPRIZE’s “Ocean Initiative”, the third of a series of multi-million dollar prizes the foundation has committed to launch by 2020 for addressing “critical ocean challenges and inspire innovation that helps create an ocean that is healthy, valued and understood.” Two ocean prizes have already been awarded to Wendy Schmidt Oil Spill Clean-Up XCHALLENGE and Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health Prize. Registration is now open through September 30th 2016 and winners will be announced in December of 2018.

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