Industrial - Honours

DISCOVERY: Making Memories Mean More

DISCOVERY is a rental camera system designed to collect photographic data for citizen science (CS) groups on the Great Barrier Reef. Reef ecosystems accommodate 0.2% of the seafloor and are responsible for housing a quarter of all marine biodiversity but there is insufficient funding and resources in place to accurately monitor this space. DISCOVERY has been designed to use reef tourism to broaden the percentage of reefs monitored at a significantly lower price point.

Shows a spectrum of pages from Ellie's research paper which lead to findings for the product development part of her capstone project.

Understanding the Problem

The research portion of the capstone project was to understand how training and recruitment methods impact participation in marine citizen science programs based on the Great Barrier Reef. Citizen scientists are members of the public that collect and/or analyse data for programs that aid scientific research. The industry has been gaining traction in recent years and is an effective tool when implemented correctly. The report discussed the current landscape through the academic literature, industry interviews and observation sessions. These sources found three factors that impact engagement: participation boundaries, user incentive, and overall confidence in completing a task. This information was used to guide a design proposal and criteria that would dictate the direction of the design phase of the project.

View Ellie’s Dissertation

The solution

Gif of the DISCOVERY Camera. The camera is small, fits in the palm of an adult's hand. White with blue details.
The DISCOVERY camera is the hero product of the DISCOVERY system. It is a piece of rental snorkelling equipment distributed by tourism or charter operators as a part of their regular hire services. When creating a solution that could both lower the barrier to entry and increase user confidence, common equipment and activities were assessed against active citizen science programs. Accessible underwater photography can benefit both the user and CS groups alike. The current market doesn’t offer a middle ground or affordable macro camera, with many of the existing competitors being action cameras that are either low quality or at exorbitant price points. The DISCOVERY systems can be purchased as a suite 8 by organisations to be paid off through customer rentals.
Shows a range of the cameras. Each a different colour and number ranging from 1-8
Exploded view of Camera
As noted in the video, the camera has inbuilt sensors that encode temperature, location, depth and time data onto photos and videos. These images are distributed to photo analysis CS programs and marine science databases for analysis and then later archived. A problem that’s present within the scientific community currently is that citizens aren’t seen as qualified enough to accurately record scientific findings. Therefore, the sensors have been implemented to address that problem. By accurately measuring the required data, users can submit images and videos freely without having to worry about compromising data quality. This system was designed to gently introduce a wider population to CS participation; a steppingstone if you will.

DISCOVERY has simplified the camera to just a video and photo function, indicated by light and sound. It’s an intuitive design to minimise the need for excessive training.

Camera mode is indicated with a green light while video is a red light. The cameras are mounted on the top of a snorkel mask.
A photo of a man on a boat in snorkelling equipment. The Discovery goggles are on his head and ready to be used.
The camera is mounted in a specialised snorkel mask. When discussing the solution with reef tourists, a common theme was that users wanted full autonomy in the water. Whether it be a fear of losing their expensive camera or being uncomfortable swimming in the ocean, both groups mentioned that current cameras aren’t ideal for all participants. The mask is standard with the silicone seal having an additional pocket added to contain the camera. This sits atop the user’s head, out of the way when not in use. The camera can be slipped in and out when sanitising the equipment while re-entering the boat. Designing the custom silicone part with wholesale snorkel mask parts will also cut the costs of manufacturing.
Exploded view of goggle parts. The silicone layer features silicone pocket on top that the camera can slip within

The product is distributed in a set of 8 cameras, 12 snorkel masks and a specialised charger. This is an induction charger optimised for use on a charter or tourism vessel. Doubling as a storage system, the charger is magnetised and locks the camera in place. The outer casing is waterproof and can be fastened between railings or onto walls. It was important to provide several storage options as each crew and vessel operates differently. When exiting the water, users can place their cameras into the charger to prevent losing the device between snorkel sites.

The charger is a long vertical rectangle with 8 cameras sections. The case is a navy blue with discovery logo decals on the side and front. Double zips are on the front and open the central front panel.
Computer and phone displaying the web database.
The final piece in the puzzle is the web database. This site is the backbone of the entire system. Here the user can upload, interact, and share their work with CS programs and international audiences. Each user is expected to sign up when renting the camera. This will give them access to their photos and videos wherever and whenever they like. Specific features of this page include an interactive map that allows you to view other DISCOVERY users’ pictures on various reef networks and a privacy screen that allows the user to choose which images and videos are shared publicly. The aim is to roll this product out internationally. Not only will this provide scientific resources but encourage users to book holidays in other locations thus supporting reef tourism organisations globally.

In Conclusion

DISCOVERY is a system complementary to all. The aim was to lower the barrier to entry while creating an incentive. The camera allows a user to capture high-quality video and photos of their trip while having the opportunity to contribute back to the ecosystem they’re exploring. This camera also opens future opportunities in biodiversity and agricultural image studies. Still, at its core, the DISCOVERY system is about making your memories mean more.

If you would like to know more about the system or study, feel free to contact Ellie with the details below.

Camera mounted in goggles

Ellie McBain

Ellie has garnered a passion for uncovering and understanding the end-user and context to create holistic and seamless systems that effortless fit within the user’s daily life. Ellie's drive to unearth research gaps and solve complex problems has been carried throughout her study and will continue this momentum in industry.