Ever wanted to go on a hunt for sunken treasure, or try to discover a new aquatic species? The documentation of citizen exploration has long been an important element of our process of discovery, and this week the adventure-tracking site OpenExplorer is going live to help celebrate and promote that with expedition posts from the explorer community. Created by the OpenROV team, the site is also offering five of the underwater OpenROV kits to help others further citizen exploration.
We caught up with OpenROV co-founder David Lang to learn more about the site, which has been in private beta since January, and hear how others can participate.
What is OpenExplorer?
OpenExplorer is a platform for exploration. It’s a way to connect people with collaborators, tools, and resources they need to explore and discover our world. All these new maker tools (drones, ROVs, cheap sensors) have opened up an entirely new way to view our planet. The next step — we believe — is giving people a place to do that in public and work together. Basically, OpenExplorer is an adventure machine: curiosity comes in, adventure comes out.
How does it function?
The site works as a digital field journal. You create an “expedition” that provides a bit of background on where you’re planning or intending to go, and then are able to start sharing your preperation steps and plans. Once you’re in the field, you can post live updates to keep your followers up to speed. Then when you’re back, you can post lessons learned and any data that you collected as part of the debriefing stage.
The purpose of doing this in an open fashion instead of on a private document or site, is that you’ll be able to connect with others who may be able to help or lend advice. It’s all about creating a community of DIY adventurers.
Tell us about how the site began.
We started building the site back in January. After our experience with OpenROV and searching for treasure in an underwater cave, we had an epiphany: It doesn’t take a huge grant to be an explorer. New maker tools have created an environment where all you need are a group of friends, an idea, and an internet connection.
We’ve been building the site with the team from Ushahidi, a group of makers based out of Nairobi, Kenya. But all sorts of groups are involved. You can see from the expeditions that a number of different conservation organizations, exploration groups, and companies are creating expeditions.
What’s happening with the site this week?
This week’s rollout is focused on ocean, lake and marine expeditions. As part of that, we’re giving away five OpenROV kits to the expeditions that gain the most interest (followers) or the course of the month. In a few weeks, we’ll be rolling it out beyond just marine science and exploration. More features. More tools. More surprises.
This is the next step towards something we’ve been calling “connected exploration.” We feel as though we lucked out, and had a glimpse at a future where a new adventure, a group of new collaborators, and a breakthrough discovery are accessible to everyone with an internet connection.
How many groups are part of the OpenExplorer community so far?
Well, we only opened it up yesterday and there are already almost 50 expeditions. There are a lot more in draft mode that will be launching in the coming weeks — some of these will blow your mind.
What does someone need to do to get their project listed on the site?
It’s easy, just go to OpenExplorer and click “Create.” Even if you don’t have everything figured out, getting started is the most important step.
In the next month, we’ll be opening this up beyond just ROVs and ocean exploration (as well as adding a number of new features). We’re going to be including a whole suite of maker exploration tools.
If you’ve got a tool or community you think would thrive on OpenExplorer, we’d love to hear from you. You can email me: [email protected]