Kakani Katija is a Principal Engineer at MBARI and serves as the Principal Investigator (PI) of Ocean Vision AI. As lead of the Bioinspiration Lab at MBARI, Kakani has spent 10 years investigating ways that imaging can enable observations of life in the deep sea. Through her team’s work developing novel imaging techniques, Kakani recognized the importance of finding fast and efficient ways to analyze and share imagery with the research community to inform ocean stewardship. In her capacity as PI, Kakani leverages her expertise in collaborative research and engineering innovations to guide the Ocean Vision AI program.
Image credit: Steve Henderson, Sherpas Cinema/National Geographic Society
Where did the idea for Ocean Vision AI come from?
Kakani: Honestly, I’m frustrated by our lack of capacity to monitor life in the ocean. There’s a lot of activities that are happening or will happen in the ocean that could have a significant impact on the life that lives there, and I want to ensure that we have all the information we need to conduct those activities in a really sustainable way.
What aspects of Ocean Vision AI are you the most excited about and why?
Kakani: All of our integrated solutions to address visual data challenges are hugely exciting to me, but an aspect that I think has enormous, unseen potential is the game FathomVerse. FathomVerse may be able to provide a mechanism to engage a wider, more diverse community and also act as a pipeline to bring more people into ocean sciences. Hopefully, this game will start to demystify ocean research for many people.
What is the most interesting part of working on FathomVerse for you?
Kakani: This is the area that I have the least experience in – I’ve never made a video game! I love learning new things, new approaches, and interacting with new communities and people. All those things together make the process of developing FathomVerse really fun for me.
What community do you hope FathomVerse reaches?
Kakani: I hope that FathomVerse can reach people who care about anthropogenic impacts (like climate change) on our ocean and are searching for ways to help. I know that these big global issues can feel overwhelming and, especially for young people, make you feel hopeless – like there’s nothing one individual can do to make a difference. Playing FathomVerse is a tangible action that you can take to help improve our understanding of life in the ocean, so we can know how best to mitigate the effects of climate change, biodiversity loss, the growing blue economy, and plastic pollution.
Kakani in the control room with Frank Flores piloting a remotely operated vehicle.
Have you been surprised by anything in the process of working on Ocean Vision AI?
Kakani: I’ve been surprised by the broad support that we’ve received for Ocean Vision AI. I think that’s largely because we spent so much time in the early stages focused on user-centered design, and we interviewed a wide range of stakeholders to understand their challenges and needs. That early research laid a solid foundation for the whole program, and we continue to use it to inform decisions for our activities. We share this experience and outcomes in a recent CHI paper if you’re interested in checking it out!
Visit oceanvisionai.org/get-involved to learn how you can join our network of marine scientists, programmers, and enthusiasts all working to understand life in the ocean.