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“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” – Jacques Cousteau
Thanks to Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping technology, virtual reality (VR) software, and the rise of open-source geo-mapping data, you never have to remember directions again. Satellites offer a bird’s-eye view of everywhere from the White House to the Pyramids of Giza.
But what about a dolphin's-eye view? The oceans remain a mystery, even to those who regularly traverse them. Can we take GIS out to sea?
“In the world of ocean navigation, things haven’t changed much since The Hunt for Red October.”
“We realized there was nothing like that for undersea,” says Nirav Desai, who leads our Seattle innovation hub, scouting commercial technology to benefit enterprises and government. "In the world of ocean navigation, things haven’t changed much since The Hunt for Red October”—a film about undersea combat (and intrigue) set during the late Cold War era. Most maritime navigational charts are still two-dimensional, and that often means that ships are “navigating blind,” Nirav says.
Enter Ocean Lens, a software tool that fuses topographic and bathymetric (underwater topography) data into an interactive 3D environment. It’s a perfect blend of immersive technology and data science. We’re able to pull sound propagation data, water temperature, terrain type, video, sonar data, and a lot more. Ocean Lens can layer and toggle these data sources, displaying it on a virtual globe with various levels of image resolution.
With Ocean Lens, you can view the undersea domain from any vantage point on a flat screen TV or on a VR headset. As you move the virtual camera, you see an immersive and interactive virtual rendering of the ocean floor.
Ocean Lens lets planners and operators import and merge data sets—fictional, historical, or live—to provide a base layer for undersea sensor placement, intelligence data processing, common operational picture development, mission planning, and more. It’s built for everything from ship navigation to planning the construction of bridges, dam, and oil rigs.
Ocean Lens is the brainchild of our experts in naval navigation, VR, and data science. Nirav introduced former “submariner” Eric R. Jones to Lead Developer Ian Byrnes, who showed off the “global, zoomable Google Earth-like tool” Eric says. He thought, “If you can pull that data, can you pull bathymetric data?”
Ian soon came back with a new model—and it went underwater. With the power of data analytics the ability to view what used to be invisible is limitless.
We’re developing software enhancements to model sound propagation patterns underwater. This means users can create their own scenarios by visualizing standard nautical chart formats in 3D. It means they can track vessel movements and paths.
It doesn’t stop there. Booz Allen is also working with Commander Submarine Forces Pacific (COMSUBPAC) to develop custom submarine exercise scenarios and dataset visualizations of the ocean floor, like what lies beneath Pearl Harbor. You can see Ocean Lens in action at the COMSUBPAC Innovation Lab there.