Monday, May 27, 2024

SHARC Framework Opens Up The Potential For Deep Ocean Exploration


The potential for exploring the deep ocean is opening up due to the new Shared Autonomy for Remote Collaboration (SHARC) framework.

The new and innovative model for oceanographic research allows shore-based individuals to observe and control robotic sampling processes.

The new functionality is open to scientists and members of the public, citizen scientists and stakeholders. As a result, this new function will significantly open up the possibility of deep ocean scientific exploration, which has been severely restricted due to the requirement of at-sea research.

The SHARC framework is the result of a collaboration between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Toyota Technological Institute at Chicago (TTIC) and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).

Commenting on the work, Richard Camilli, co-author and principal investigator for the project and scientist in WHOI’s Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering Department, stated:

“We can open up the operational aspects of deep sea exploration to citizen scientists, whether they be kids in a classroom or people who can’t be present on a ship because of logistical or physical requirements. Citizen scientists can interact with the ROV’s robotic manipulator arm in a virtual world, somewhat analogous to the science fiction ‘holodeck’ holographic system used on Federation starships on Star Trek. We just give the robot its goal, and it finds a solution. People and the robot can collaborate together, where we’re not waiting for one thing to happen in order to do the next thing. While the robotic arm is executing a task, we can be focusing on the next goal.”

While Amy Phung, lead author and student in the MIT-WHOI Joint Program in Oceanography/Applied Ocean Science and Engineering graduate degree program, added:

“This paper really highlights shared autonomy’s potential to help democratize access to the deep sea. With SHARC, our shore-side team was able to collect seafloor samples from over 4000 kilometers away without specialized hardware or extensive prior training. In the future, I believe that further advancements in robotics and autonomy research can someday enable shore-side scientists, students, and enthusiasts to actively participate in and contribute to deep-ocean exploration operations as they occur, which in turn can help to foster ocean literacy among the general public.”


Sam Helmy
Sam Helmy
Sam Helmy is a TDI/SDI Instructor Trainer, and PADI Staff and Trimix Instructor. Diving for 28 years, a dive pro for 14, I have traveled extensively chasing my passion for diving. I am passionate about everything diving, with a keen interest in exploration, Sharks and big stuff, Photography and Decompression theory. Diving is definitely the one and only passion that has stayed with me my whole life! Sam is a Staff Writer for