80th Anniversary Prize
Underwater Spherical Image Live Streaming System i-Ball
Tanigawa & Yamagata
"Forming a tag team"
I want to stream spherical live image from inside a fish tank at an aquarium! Tanigawa's idea started the project, but hit upon the water-proofing barrier immediately. Yamagata, who is familiar with "underwater robot," was found after a net search, and an e-mail was sent for requesting cooperation, and immediately it was granted! Thus the tag team of a live streaming professional and a water-proofing professional was born.
"Fighting against water"
Amateurs may think water-proofing is simply preventing water from entering some key places which we want to keep dry. We have to cope with other issues such as the deformation of the exterior shape of objects due to the pressure when objects are submerged. Cylinder and sphere are two forms that are used often since they withstand water pressure well. Cylindrical shape is attractive because of its size and ease of production. However, the deformation is not uniform in all the directions, and that appears as image deformation when a spherical image camera such as RICOH THETA is placed inside. So, a spherical shape, which is relatively immune to the deformation under pressure, was adopted in our project. A special dedicated spherical shell has been created with ease of maintenance and disassembly in mind.
In order to create a spherical shape, three O rings are used to prevent the water from seeping at the boundary and flange. The size of the sphere is the smallest possible when we place the lens of RICOH THETA at the center of the sphere (made of acrylic glass). Camera stand is compact and acts as heat sink, too. This makes it possible to keep the wide visible angle, and stable operation as well.
"Live streaming, please"
If the objective was to capture image on the camera, all was done by now. However, our objective is live streaming. So we have to receive the streaming video from a camera that is submerged under water at the depth of five meters or more, and we need to feed electricity for prolonged live streaming, too. We wanted to simplify the system by using only one cable (LAN) between the submerged unit and the ground station. We built a ground station, a system that can be about 100 meters away from the submerged RICOH THETA and can stream live video by using PoE Passthrough, HDMI extender and Raspberry Pi.
"Fighting with the extreme"
As a result, we have built a very versatile system that allows us to place a spherical camera that is as far away as 100 meters from the power and Internet connection point. We intend to try placing it at a high place such as the top of a tall tower as well as our original target of underwater locations.
This is an impressive gadget. The construction of the unit is very finely done to make it possible to stream high quality image under water. All the judges were impressed with the perfection when they touched the unit for real. The estimated manpower for production was also a factor for the award.
Interview with the award winners
I came up with an idea of “I want to stream spherical live image from inside a fish tank at an aquarium!” and started the project. When I hit upon the water-proofing barrier, I found Mr. Yamagata who’d been participating in underwater robot contest after a net research for the solution, and he helped me. The contact was out of blue. (laughs）i-Ball can be used at an aquarium, be sunk in the sea and be hung in the air. We hope many people will use i-Ball for various purposes and share the images. I’ll go anywhere across Japan with i-Ball, so please feel free to contact me if you have inquiries.