MIT Future Ocean Lab

Immersive Storytelling from the Ocean Floor

MIT Future Ocean Lab is one of the 2017 winners of the Journalism 360 Challenge. See all the winners.

Project Description

It is often said that we protect what we love. A cynic might say that we destroy what we cannot see. Hidden beneath the ocean’s surface are some of the most desperate and important challenges facing humanity in the anthropocene, from tragedies and triumphs on the world’s coral reefs to the vast robotic cities processing oil thousands of meters underwater.

My lab at MIT is developing immersive camera and lighting system with which to tell these stories, whether from the reefs of Fiji, the sea mounts off Baja California, or the petro-technical wastelands on the floor of the north sea. Specifically, we are currently designing and building spherical imaging systems based on studio-quality cameras, plus custom lighting and control systems, which will allow us to shoot immersive video and live-stream from up to 3000m deep.

Central to our mission is the challenge of investigative journalism in the open ocean. It’s difficult to appreciate the scope of what we are doing to the ocean without seeing it first-hand — but it’s impossible for the public at large to experience directly the consequences of dredging sea-floor habitats, or the staggering destruction and pollution involved in deep-sea oil exploration and production. If these things happened on land, the public would demand that it stop immediately. But they remain invisible. We must change that.

The purpose of this proposal is to secure funds to help finish the prototype camera system and to support the production of a short documentary to be made during the in-field tests of the prototype currently scheduled for late summer 2017.