XPRIZE Offers $7M Purse to Unlock Mysteries of the Sea

By Andrew Kornblatt

While the ocean covers roughly 70 percent of our planet’s surface, we currently only have about 5-7 percent of that spectacularly large area mapped in any meaningful way. In fact, we have better maps of the surface of the moon and mars than we do of the ocean floor. XPRIZE, the non-profit foundation whose lofty mission is to “design and manage public competitions” that better mankind, has just launched a new ocean challenge which will likely draw the attention of marine scientists, geologists and hobbyists everywhere.

The three-year global competition is focused on ocean mapping and, with a U.S.$ 7,000,000 prize purse and the illustrious title of “XPRIZE Winner”, the competition is is likely to push the technologies that drive ocean exploration.

“This competition is technically challenging, but it is also very interdisciplinary. It involves underwater robotics, it involves computer science, there is a digital imagery component to it… We expect a number of different approaches to this,” said Dr. Jyotika Virmani, XPRIZE Prize Lead and Senior Director.

Specifically, participants must complete a series of tasks through devices which must be launched from the shore or the air, and can operate at a depth of up to 4,000 meters. These tasks include making a high-resolution map of the sea-floor, taking high-definition images of specific objects, and identifying key features in a type of “treasure hunt.” There is also a “bonus” $1M challenge for technology that can monitor specific chemical and biological compounds in the water column; an attempt to “sniff out” a specified object in the ocean.

This latest XPRIZE is part of the foundation’s “Ocean Initiative.” The mapping challenge is the third in a series of five multi-million dollar prizes the foundation has promised to launch by 2020 to “address critical ocean challenges and inspire innovation that helps —> Read More