SHARC: SHared Autonomy for Remote Collaboration at WHOI

Together with a team of students, professors, and researchers from the the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, MIT, and TTIC, I worked on the development of SHARC: SHared Autonomy for Remote Collaboration.
SHARC is a multi‑modal user interface that enables remote scientists to perform high‑level tasks using an underwater manipulator, while deferring low‑level control to the robot.

SHARC consists of four parts:

  • on-shore users (scientists);
  • shore server;
  • ship server;
  • robot;

The data from the robot is streamed up to the ship via a fiber optic cable. The pilot onboard the ship chooses which data streams to forward onto the shore-side server, which distributes the data to the on-shore users that are connected to it. Distributing the data through a central on-shore server, allows us to (i) support multiple users logged in simultaneously, (ii) support multi-user operations where scientists with different skills and field of experise can cooperatively perform a complex task, and (iii) render the bandwidth requirements on the connection link between the ship and the shore independent on the number of connected users. The pilot can also choose if and who (among the users connected) can command the robot. Robot monitoring and control is condensed into a single 3D multi-modal user interface. SHARC's UI features a natural language interface for hands-free interaction, classical 3D viewers available for Linux, MacOS, and Windows, VR headset and controllers for immersive experience.


We successfully deployed and tested SHARC during the OECI Technology Demonstration: Nereid Under Ice (NUI) Vehicle + Mesobot expedition aboard E/V Nautilus. During this expedition, three on-shore scientists, myself (in Chicago, IL), MIT's student Amy Phung (in Boston, MA), and WHOI's Professor Richard Camilli (in Woods Hole, MA), orchestrated the execution of an in-situ XRF (X-Ray Fluorescense) sampling as well as a pushcore sampling on the sea floor of the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California, at a depth of about 1000 meters. Two scientists aboard the ship, TTIC's Professor Matthew Walter, and UMICH's Ph.D. Candidate Gideon Billings served as pilots.

For further information about the expedition, read the article.

When:   September 15 - 30 2021




We’re moving faster than I thought we were going to move. This has been quite a new milestone in our undersea exploration.

Dr. Robert Ballard (President of the Ocean Exploration Trust)