Google Commences 'Virtual Diving' Reef Tours: Will it Find a Mermaid for You?

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Want to enjoy the Great Barrier Reef, but afraid of diving into the sea? Google seems to come for your help once again! 

A virtual ocean for all those who are afraid to dive and the others who want to enjoy the The Great Barrier Reef, live on their laptops! Here comes the next Google information program which will take you under the ocean. Google has inked a deal with international Insurance and Reinsurance Company Catlin Group Limited and the oceanographer to launch Catlin Seaview Survey in the two-day World Oceans Summit taking place at Singapore. 

According to the program, the project aims to carry out a comprehensive study to document the composition and health of coral reefs of the sea across an unprecedented depth. Hence, users can just switch to Internet and can enjoy the delights of the seaview of World’s largest ecosystem Great Barrier Reef from any corner of the World, similar to the Google Streetview. 

"This is a critical decade for coral reefs," said Catlin project director Richard Vevers. "We need to be recording them as fast as we can and involving people to halt the decline, which is alarming at the moment." 

Further, Catlin Seaview Survey aims at projecting three surveys including shallow reef, deep-water and mega-fauna. In the first, users will be able to take a reef survey into the effects of climate change on the ecosystems with a 360 degree panoramic vision using specially developed cameras (the SVII). 

In the second, the project's cutting-edge technologies would explore the depths, beyond the range of scuba divers, creating an incredibly rich broad scale baseline for scientific analysis from locations along the entire length of the 2300km reef. Each of the robots is able to help the other one if one gets stuck between the reefs. 

Talking about the third component, it is led by Emmy award winning cinematographer and shark researcher Richard Fitzpatrick. 

It would involve tagging and tracking manta rays, turtles and tiger sharks using satellite tags and tracking their movements live in relation to oceanographic data. This would contribute to an important study to examine the size of distribution of animals in response to rapidly warming seas. 

These images will be accessible on Google Earth and Google Maps using image recognition software. 

Adding on, approximately 50,000 panoramas will be available on a new Google feature called Panoramio. A YouTube channel will also be dedicated to the project that will include live-streaming of the expedition team from the ocean floor. 

"You don't have to be a scuba diver or even know how to swim to explore and experience six of the ocean's most incredible living coral reefs," said Google Maps and Earth vice president Brian McClendon. 

"Now, anyone can become the next virtual Jacques Cousteau and dive with sea turtles, fish and manta rays in Australia, the Philippines and Hawaii." 

The mapping exploration has already commenced and the team has "published images in seven continents, down the Amazon and in the Arctic," said Google Oceans programme manager Jenifer Austin Foulkes. 

A sample of huge sea turtles swimming about amongst colorful reef fishes can be viewed in the below gallery and tested on the Catlin Seaview Survey's Web site.


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