by Benson Mbani
Two weeks into my summer time vacation, whereas dancing alongside to the Jerusalema dance problem, an e-mail got here by which wanted pressing motion. Normally whereas on vacation, I solely briefly verify emails each few days, and solely reply to pressing ones. It was from Dr. Timm Schoening – my supervisor and chief scientist for this cruise. However why would he ship me an e-mail that wanted my motion when he knew I used to be on trip?
“… would you want to affix our cruise ‘Steel-ML’ throughout the Atlantic Ocean in October? …” learn the e-mail partially. Why wouldn’t I need to be part of any cruise to any a part of the world? Particularly one which I don’t must pay for? I questioned to myself. “After all, I want to be part of” I responded as I partly danced alongside to Jerusalema dance. You see there’s that a part of the dance the place you need to play your ft in some humorous sort of method as you make the flip. Took me a few tries to get it proper ;). Anyway, when the day lastly got here, we drove about 5 hours from Kiel to Emden, which is the departure port the place the ship was docked ready for us to present it firm because it cruises into the tough waters of the Atlantic. As is required, we needed to observe laid down customary well being pointers. After the obligatory strict pre-cruise quarantine interval, and with a unfavorable COVID check lead to hand, it was lastly time to board Germany’s second most trendy ocean analysis vessel named after Maria S. Merian. An impressive piece of engineering.
However what analysis do I even do at GEOMAR? Broadly talking, my thesis is about underwater laptop imaginative and prescient, which includes machine studying, utilized statistical sample recognition and picture processing methods to challenges associated to seafloor picture understanding. However why can we even want picture understanding anyway? What does it even imply? Can’t we simply stare on the photographs and see what’s in them?
Because it seems, picture evaluation is a comparatively straightforward and trivial job for a human above the age of 5 to deal with. What will not be so apparent, nevertheless, is how the human mind is a complicated ‘supercomputer’ that integrates the visible sensory data that is available in by the eyes with different data similar to prior expertise, that makes it easy for us to grasp and interpret picture content material, in some instances even for photographs now we have by no means seen earlier than. The issue is that people endure fatigue and bias actually shortly, and so even though we’re good at picture interpretation, it’s neither possible nor scalable to depend on human interpreters to research the terabytes price of picture and video that’s generated throughout deep-sea expeditions.
The apparent different is to coach computer systems to imitate the human visible system and robotically do picture understanding for us. Imagine it or not, there is no such thing as a apparent strategy to prepare computer systems to be as competent as people in picture understanding. Partly as a result of the human visible system will not be absolutely understood, thus not straightforward to conceptualize and program as an algorithm. As well as, the truth that computer systems view a picture as a set of ‘numbers’ on a grid represented as a matrix additionally makes this job comparatively non-trivial. Consequently, coaching computer systems to have the ability to rework these ‘uncooked numbers’ into helpful data is on the core of laptop imaginative and prescient analysis. Having the ability to prepare computer systems to attain such a job permits marine researchers to non-invasively pattern giant benthic habitats utilizing underwater cameras and depend on the pc imaginative and prescient algorithms to do the picture interpretation duties robotically as they concentrate on the science.
Again to the cruise! As could be anticipated, I used to be a part of the staff of scientists coping with the Ocean Flooring Statement System (OFOS). Determine 2 exhibits the OFOS we used throughout the MSM96 cruise. The OFOS proven beneath is a system comprising video and nonetheless picture cameras used to survey the deep sea ground. It’s related to the vessel by a 7 km fiber optic cable that maintains a steady direct connection which we depend on for reside seafloor video streaming at a decision of 4K. Additionally, the OFOS is supplied with a photograph digicam which captures excessive decision nonetheless pictures each second. Determine 3, beneath, exhibits a pattern of nonetheless pictures captured and annotated throughout the MSM96 cruise on board Maria S Merian.
So, what goes on in a typical day at sea? First, we put together a transect alongside which we have to accumulate video and pictures. This data is then despatched to the crew on the bridge who then steer the ship to the beginning of the transect and place it in order to be stationary, prepared for OFOS deployment. The OFOS is then progressively lowered 5 kilometers into the water column. It takes roughly 2 hours to reach on the seafloor. As soon as near the seafloor, we optimize the digicam settings remotely to get clear footage with good distinction. The reside stream from the OFOS is relayed to a giant display within the lab from the place we start annotating benthic fauna because the ship is shifting alongside the transect. Because it takes no less than 12 hours to finish imaging a transect, we work in shifts by the night time.
After now we have sampled your entire transect, we retailer and back-up the information onto our NAS units and instantly begin preliminary on-board picture evaluation on the newly acquired picture sequences and recorded movies. For every picture body (on each the nonetheless pictures and movies), we extract options – which suggests properties/traits of the picture. As an example, for every picture we robotically extract the imply colour and entropy as proxies for whole picture sequences. We additionally do laser level detection to calculate the world of seafloor imaged in sq. meters.
It’s been virtually 5 weeks since we left Kiel to begin the cruise, which means it’s been greater than six weeks since I did the Jerusalema dance, which isn’t a superb factor, clearly. The factor with cruising within the Atlantic is that it could actually get so tough someday. Meaning it might not be a good suggestion to do the dance on board. However Maria S Merian is a lovely vessel and so there have been all the time loads of choices to securely preserve match within the sport room, after the picture evaluation work for the day is finished, in fact 😊