Xprize announces finalists for Shell Ocean Discovery Xprize

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Xprize, a leader in “designing and managing incentive competitions to solve humanity’s grand challenges,” has announced the nine finalist teams advancing in the $7 million Shell Ocean Discovery Xprize.

The Shell Ocean Discovery Xprize is a three-year global competition that challenges teams to advance ocean technologies for “rapid, unmanned and high-resolution ocean exploration.”

The finalists, chosen from a field of 19 semifinalists by an independent judging panel of seven experts, are Arggonauts; Blue Devil Ocean Engineering – Duke University; CFIS, GEBCO-NF Alumni; Kuroshio, Pisces, Team Tao, Texas A&M Ocean Engineering and Virginia Deep-X.

“These nine finalist teams are a testament to the strength of open innovation through teamwork,” says Marc Gerrits, executive vice president of exploration at Shell. “We believe that innovation and collaboration are fundamental if we are to solve some of the biggest challenges facing society today.”

Xprize will award each finalist an equal share of a $1 million milestone prize purse for the unique ocean mapping and imaging technologies they have developed. According to Xprize, the finalists’ innovative approaches cover the gamut, as they include artificial intelligence, aerial UAS, underwater robotic swarms, lasers, and autonomous surface and underwater vehicles.

During a closing keynote at Oceanology International’s Catch the Next Wave conference in London on March 15, the nine finalist teams will be formally recognized and awarded. The keynote will be delivered by Jyotika Virmani, prize lead and senior director of planet and environment at Xprize.

“Round 1 testing for the Shell Ocean Discovery Xprize allowed the judges to see, for the first time, tangible prototypes of the innovative and diverse approaches that will revolutionize our access to the deep ocean and finally unveil the mysteries that lie deep below the sea-surface,”  Virmani says.

In order to advance to the final round, the semifinalist teams had to pass a Round 1 Technology Readiness Test, which involved site visits to each team by Xprize staff and judges.

The teams were tested against 11 measurement criteria to show their technological innovations were capable of meeting the operational requirements necessary for “rapid, unmanned, and high-resolution ocean mapping and discovery.”

Esri, a geographic information system (GIS) software and geodatabase management company, donated its ArcGIS Online platform for the teams to use, allowing them to submit their maps to the judges via Esri ArcGIS Online.

The final Round 2 testing will take place during October and November of this year. During this round, finalists will have the chance to demonstrate their technologies in the “real-world in a deep-sea environment,” as they will be responsible for mapping the sea floor at 4,000 meters depth, and bringing back 10 images from the ocean.

“As we dive into Round 2, we are looking forward to testing the finalists’ technologies in a rigorous real-world world situation that will demonstrate their ability to rapidly map the ocean floor at 4000 meter depths — that’s deeper than the Grand Canyon,” Virmani says.

Ocean mapping company Fugro will help Xprize during this round by providing the competition’s “high-resolution baseline bathymetry data” that is needed in judging team mapping results.

Before the final Round 2 testing, a preliminary test of the $1 million NOAA Bonus Prize will take place during Spring 2018. The NOAA Bonus Prize incentivizes the development of “technologies that can detect a chemical or biological signal underwater and autonomously track it to its source.”

This preliminary test of the $1 million NOAA Bonus Prize will give all semifinalist teams who have chosen to participate a platform to test their technologies. The winners of the NOAA Bonus Prize will be determined during Round 2 testing in October and November 2018.