NauticExpo e-Magazine - #11 – Virtual and Augmented RealityNauticExpo e-Magazine

The Online Boating and Maritime Exhibition

Virtual and Augmented Reality

Today, virtual and augmented reality are everywhere. And the nautical and maritime sectors are no exceptions. VR and AR are having a dramatic impact on shipbuilding. When it comes to sailing, these technologies are helping America’s Cup organizers create interest among a wider audience. They also provide professional sailors with data and graphic overlays to enhance performance.

In another vein, you’ll read about how nautical drones are attracting serious attention—and serious investments.

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Engineers and designers benefit from being able to walk through the vessel before it is even built.
Navigate inside your project (Courtesy of TechViz)

Augmented and virtual reality in industry is predicted to become a US $80 billion market by 2025, according to Goldman Sachs. Its impact on shipbuilding will be no less dramatic.   Goldman Sachs AR & VR Research Business Unit leader Heather Bellini states that AR and VR have the potential to transform the way people...

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Hefty America’s Cup budgets allow teams to use both VR and AR.
America's Cup - Land Rover Ben Ainslie racing (Courtesy of Land Rover Bar)


When complicated stuff happens fast, you need help. New systems put the technology right in front of your eyes. Hefty America’s Cup budgets allow teams to use both virtual and augmented reality.


If you are into investing, you might want to look at virtual and augmented reality. And if you are into sailing, you should know that VR and AR are exploding into myriad mind-boggling products for both sailors and spectators.

Unsure of the difference between the two? VR is a computer-generated universe, while AR is the real world overlain with useful data.

VR is a computer-generated universe; AR is the real world overlain with useful data.

Early adopters of AR technology were the military and the medical sector. Fighter pilots have long used glasses with flight data in their line of sight. Some surgeons use the same system, as do race car drivers. The advantages are obvious for high-risk professionals—continuous access to critical information without removing their eyes from the task at hand.

In the nautical sector, one example is the Garmin Nautix handset, which places navigational data onto sun glasses. Skippers can see in their glasses online critical boat data and stay focused when they navigate (See the NauticExpo e-mag article on this product).

The AR Liveline Project

When it comes to sailing technology, the America’s Cup is where it happens first. For the 35th Cup around Bermuda, the spectacular, raw reality is augmented for the benefit of spectators around the world. And the professional sailors have data and graphic overlays to enhance their performance.

In the years preceding the 2013 Cup in San Francisco, race organizers understood that they had to take major steps to interest a wider audience. Oracle invested $20 million in the LiveLine project, headed by the superstar of sports media technology, Stan Honey.

 The LiveLine AR system helps viewers follow the intense action of the AC (Courtesy of Stan Honey)

The LiveLine AR system helps viewers follow the intense action of the AC (Courtesy of Stan Honey)

The result was a stunning example of AR. High-resolution video with graphics overlays showed in a simple, easily comprehensible way what was really happening on the water.

LiveLine was a key factor in making the race a success.

The most important feature was a set of lines across the race course, perpendicular to the wind direction, continuously indicating the distance between competitors. LiveLine also showed the laylines and circles around the marks, where specific rules apply.

Core information, including speed and foiling percentage, was also available. The GPS positioning of the boats was so precise that the system had to be authorized by US military authorities. Course judges, who have the power to impose immediate penalties, also used the tool to improve decisions. LiveLine changed the perception of the sport and was a key factor in making the race a success.

VR’s America’s Cup Presence

VR’s America’s Cup presence goes back to 1992. Virtual Eye 3D graphics made it possible to explain sailing to the audience in a new way. Virtual Eye still delivers technology packages to America’s Cup events, now with tracking.

It can show an entire race course, including marks, laylines, advantage lines and distances between the boats. Virtual Eye also displays timing information from starts, mark rounding and finishes. All of this information is available in real-time for immediate review and post-race analysis.

Virtual skippers at the America's Cup (Courtesy of Gamespot)

Virtual skippers at the America’s Cup (Courtesy of Gamespot)

VR technology offers multiplayer environments, interactive displays and more. VR games give fans a whiff of the action, but are also used for training. They offer helmsman, tactician and crew a way to test maneuvers and perfect interactions. The shipping industry also uses VR for training purposes.

As today’s foiling sailboats crisscross the water in 30-40 knots of wind on short courses, sailors are suddenly in situations not unlike those faced by fighter pilots. Hefty America’s Cup budgets allow teams to use both VR and AR. Virtual reality also can be used to test boat modifications before actual on-water trials.

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Our team’s long-term goal now is to make a round-the-world autonomous sailboat.
Saildrone in San Francisco (Courtesy of Saildrone)

Rolls-Royce may have captured the headlines with its vision of autonomous vessels, but small autonomous craft known as nautical drones are attracting serious attention—and serious investments.   Unsurprisingly, the military was an early adopter of the drone concept. One example is the Oscar-class stealth drone,...

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  • Siemens electric ferry operated by ship owner Norled (Courtesy of Siemens)


    The international maritime industry is increasingly looking to hybrid power. Batteries are a proven, commercially viable technology that offers significant environmental benefits. But they have a limited lifespan.


    The norm for all batteries is that they be fully recycled at the end of their life. That is a costly and time-consuming exercise. There are no serviceable components inside them, which means the entire unit is recycled at the expense of the customer or manufacturer.

    Canada-based Plan B Energy Storage (PBES) has a new approach, the Cell Swap initiative. This is a retrofit process involving re-coring a battery aboard a vessel, even at sea. A first in the marine market, it represents genuinely revolutionary thinking about battery design because it makes them serviceable.

    Speaking to NauticExpo e-mag, vice president of brand and marketing Grant Brown explained: “That means the costs of all the other components, including the racking, cable lay, and structure of the battery, are saved when the core is replaced. A further benefit is negation of the need for costly electronic waste recycling.”

    Battery Propulsion—the New Oil

    “The battery market is enjoying a rapid evolution. An increasing portion of the marine industry views battery propulsion as ‘the new oil’. Our battery systems power hybrid and full electric ferries, plus offshore supply vessels, large hybrid yachts and port equipment,” Brown said.

    The battery propulsion is seen as the "new oil" (Courtesy of PBES)

    The battery propulsion is seen as the “new oil” (Courtesy of PBES)

    “When the market was in its infancy, many shipowners and operators viewed batteries as a commodity product. PBES experts focused on changing this perception and redefining batteries as smart technology, both environmentally and economically,” he added.

    This re-education process has been largely successful, Brown noted. But challenges remain, including pressure from shipowners and operators to reduce battery system costs.

    “The issue is more acute because of downward price pressure from the automobile industry. Supply chain management has been based on large-volume cost reductions, an average vehicle lifespan of only eight years and a consumer-oriented price structure. In response, many providers are lowering their quality standards to meet unrealistic goals,” he explained.

    Battery Lifespan Increases

    “If the true value of batteries is to be realized, systems need to be considered as part of a holistic lifecycle approach—a smart system. Decision-making should take into consideration more than price per kWh.”

    Scandinavia electric ferry (Courtesy of Electrovaya)

    Scandinavia electric ferry (Courtesy of Electrovaya)

    According to Brown, key elements should include lifespan increase due to correct temperature management, and understanding the advantages of batteries using lithium ion cells, “which have better quality and performance.”

    “In addition, installing a battery capable of the deepest discharge is essential in extending the lifespan while freeing up vessel capacity. For example, PBES can achieve an 80% depth of discharge with 15,000 cycles. That means its batteries can be substantially smaller than other solutions, yet achieve the same lifespan.”

    See our recent article on the Seaspan Swift and Seaspan Reliant.

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    Thrust through undulating wings (Courtesy of M. Latacz)

    The future of propulsion in the marine industry is taking a new course, with alternative and more organic approaches.

    The NOA wave drive propulsion concept uses bionics at the core of its design, mimicking the movements of cephalopods. The project has won the Closer to People Award in the transport and mobility category.

    Michal Latacz is NOA founder and CEO. “During my studies, I discovered bionics, a scientific discipline based on a very simple principle—observe and learn from nature and then implement this knowledge in modern technology.”

    The NOA drive generates thrust through undulating wings instead of rotating propeller blades. The wing geometry allows the water to be gently pulled over its edges. It is then accelerated along the surface, producing thrust at very low undulation speeds. Latacz contrasts this system with traditional propulsion. “Boat propellers have poor thrust at low speed. They achieve maximum efficiency once they reach relatively high speed. But this results in negative side effects like cavitation and noise, and impacts the surrounding ecosystem.”


    The NOA wave drive imitates squid animals (Courtesy of Beluga Reisen)

    The main advantages of the NOA wave drive is that high thrust at lower engine speeds provides greater maneuverability. In addition, the propulsion unit is quieter and more efficient, reducing environmental impact.

    NOA is also looking at three applications:

    • The NOA Odyssey is designed for the diver propulsion vehicle market, both recreational and professional. It offers long range and high vehicle payload capacity. The project is currently being marketed as an underwater survey vehicle that will allow divers to get closer to marine life.
    • The NOA Sentinel aims to create breakthrough underwater data acquisition systems utilizing NOA drone technologies.
    • The NOA Cruiser is designed for the leisure craft market. It uses a single, encased cephalopod NOA Drive, which generates more thrust than any other pedal boat propulsion mechanism. NOA expects to open pre-orders soon.

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    Michael Halpern

    Michael Halpern is a US-born and bred writer with experience in radio. He has lived in southern France for 15 years. Michael is the copy editor of NauticExpo e-magazine.

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    Øyvind Bordal

    Øyvind Bordal is a norwegian writer and sailor, based in Denmark and Caribbean.


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    Celia Sampol

    Celia Sampol has been a journalist for more than 15 years. She worked in Brussels and Washington for national medias (Agence France Presse, Liberation, Europolitics). She’s the editor-in-chief of NauticExpo e-magazine and MedicalExpo e-magazine.

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    Tony Slinn

    Formerly editor-in-chief of IHS Maritime, Tony Slinn is an independent maritime journalist.

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    Samantha Fisk

    Samantha Fisk worked at RINA for 7 years and has now gone into freelance for European magazines.

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