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Friday, April 28, 2017

Special Inventions in Oceania: The Underwater City

Last blog post, I focused on several inventions I created for this storyline. This post, I’ll be highlighting the special inventions that made the book possible. Without these inventions, the storyline could not have existed like it is. There are four inventions that fall into this category, the SCUBAPS, seamobile, Sea-Vision, and OVRR.

Those of you who are knowledgeable about science have probably heard scientists say that we’ve explored more of space than we have of our own oceans. You’ve probably also heard that space is the “final frontier.” Well, all of this is because ocean exploration is far behind that of space science. And let’s just face the truth, people (and governments) seem much more willing to give vast amounts of money to space science than ocean science. Due to Oceania being not only a refuge for humanity but a center of cutting-edge research, I had to find a way to remedy this. There had to be some kind of specialized suit that could allow humans to explore the depths while minimizing risk to the human body. Enter the SCUBAPS, which stands for Self-Contained-Underwater-Breathing-and-Anti-Pressure-Suit.

Dr. Samuel Wilcox had the idea for a human suit that could withstand the pressure at ocean depths while in his youth. It took him decades, however, to realize this dream. Several different factors went into the designing of the suit. For one, it had to hold up against the pressure of the deep sea while at the same time being maneuverable enough to allow the wearer to swim at will. Breathing compressed air at such a depth would be fatal for a variety of reasons. Instead, Dr. Wilcox invented a new type of material that could fulfill all of his requirements and maintain oxygen permeability. He named the material ThermaFit. With its DuraFit technology, it form fits anyone who wears it. According to his design, it is necessary for the material to be close-fitting to work and keep the wearer both oxygenated and safe from the pressure. In addition, its thermal layer keeps the wearer comfortable, allowing body heat to be retained or emitted to adjust to the temperature of the sea so that the user’s body temperature never fluctuates more than two degrees in either direction. The material is soft and acts almost like an extra skin layer of the body. The detachable helmet can seamlessly merge with the suit to create a watertight seal.

The SCUBAPS is highly technological. The A.I. inside the suit can command the attachable jet propulsion unit as well as hold an intelligent conversation with the user. Located inside the helmet, the A.I. speaks through internals speaker located just next to the ears. Entirely voice controlled, the A.I can be turned on or off with a simple voice command. In addition to the A.I., there is a GPS inside the helmet that can appear on an internal screen directly to the bottom right-hand side of the visor. It can be controlled by the A.I. or user. On the other side of the internal screen in which the GPS appears is a specialized panel that houses the incredible filter called Sea-Vision (more on that later). Overall, the SCUBAPS is a marvel in marine engineering that opens up the underwater world for endless exploration.  

Image of the SCUBAPS complete with the helmet
Illustration by Eliza Taye

Size: Fit to Form
Maximum Time of Use: 12 hours
Year of First Model: 2276

Out of all the special inventions in the novel, the seamobile is the most crucial one to the storyline. Without the seamobile, Dylan would have never met Allie. Without the seamobile, Allie would have never been able to visit the underwater city. So many plot points of this novel (and of the sequel) surround the seamobile.

Unlike all of the other special inventions on this list, the seamobile was engineered at the time of the underwater city’s inception. Specifically designed for Oceania, two hundred seamobiles were designed and manufactured to be loaded into the docking bay of the underwater city. Like many pieces of technology in Oceania, it was improved upon as the years went by and the brilliant marine engineers of the city became more inspired to adapt it. The seamobile started out as merely a deep-sea watercraft. It was meant to be something that could be used to go on short expeditions under the sea or to visit land for small durations if need-be. Over the years, Oceanians outfitted it with the latest technology and equipped it for marine study, adding features such as the ICD. Design modifications were made to allow for storage space and even more comfort for long trips. A translucent outer covering was designed for better viewing of the ocean environment and for stronger durability.  

Each seamobile is a two-seater deep-water vehicle. On the outside, it resembles a Jet Ski from afar, except for one difference—it has high-back support. The seats are designed to give back support up to halfway up an average-size person’s spine. Like a Jet Ski, the person’s feet lay to either side of the seamobile, resting on a short lip jutting out from the side. At the edge of the lip, beyond the outer rim are the air vents in which oxygen is blown throughout the cabin. The front—or driver’s seat—sits in front of a console that is activated by a human handprint. The digitized console touchscreen holds all the meters and instruments of the seamobile; the altimeter, gyrocompass, systems readout, sonar controls, and more are all located there. Each command for every part of the seamobile can be found on the console including those for the protective outer casing of the seamobile that rises from the outer edge of the footholds to enclose the entire watercraft. Once it has been activated and it senses water surrounding it, it cannot be deactivated under any circumstances. It is a failsafe to keep the people inside from drowning. Just in front of the driver’s seat is a small storage compartment that is kept cool and insulated at all times. Food, drinks, medicine or any other small item can be stored inside for long trips.

Passenger Limit: 2
Maximum Time of Use: 36 hours
Special Equipment: interspecies communicator device (ICD)
Pressure Limit: 1,000atm
Year of First Model: 2120

To leave room in Oceania for all the city’s necessary functions (housing, businesses, and the like), several things that Land Dwellers are accustomed were left out. Large stadiums for professional sports, expansive fields of green grass, amusement parks, and water parks take up too much space in a place where every square inch is precious. To allow people some of the same luxuries of land under the sea, the OVRR was created. OVRR stands for Oceania Virtual Reality Room. Inside OVRR, one can play sports, explore an exotic jungle, go on theme park rides, visit the beach, and more. It allows one to be placed wherever their mind takes them, including into movies and video games. Once connected to the mind via the headsets (that the brain can be signaled to ignore the existence of) the OVRR transports them to the location of their choosing. Along with a set of preprogrammed locations and experiences, OVRR also gives the user the option of creating their own world. In OVRR, anything and everything one could dream up could be theirs to experience. In addition to its customizability, the OVRR experience can be shared with more than one person through the headset linking.

The OVRR is a 10x10 foot (or 3x3 meter) room with holographic walls, ceiling, and floor made of projection grids so highly advanced that they can make whatever is projected on them seem real. OVRR works by injecting tiny probes into the brain to connect both the audio and visual cortex, as well as the olfactory, gustatory and somatosensory cortexes so that all a human’s senses can be synced with the program to allow one to feel like they’re really there. By effectively “syncing” with the brain, it makes one think and feel that one is where they wish to be, even though they may be standing still or sitting in the middle of the OVRR. Originally designed as a spare warehouse/storage area of the Entertainment District, the OVRR was created by a group of computer programming geniuses aided by neurologists around half a century after the founding of Oceania. By then, many people were starting to miss some of the entertainment opportunities land had to offer that were unavailable to them in Oceania. To placate people, the OVRR was created.
Image of OVRR (when first walking inside)
Illustration by Eliza Taye

Image of OVRR (in a create a world transition)
Illustration by Eliza Taye

User Limit: Unlimited (as long as they can all fit inside the room)
Maximum Time of Use: Unless otherwise specified, each OVRR has a limit of 4 hours
Year of First Model: 2183

The Sea-Vision is a hybrid of programmable and physical parts. Sea-Vision works by converting the visor of the SCUBAPS helmet into a highly complex eye similar to something a giant squid might have, but it also combines some elements of the technology behind night vision. Through the darkness, it is able to pick up the movements of the surrounding water and turn it into an image. Using any minuscule amount of light in the water, it creates a full-color image. It’s almost like a digital echolocator, but instead of using sound, it focuses on movement and the displacement of water molecules. It can then transfer that image into one visible to the human eye. The only side effect is a slight green tinge to the image. Still, deep sea organisms that would be otherwise invisible in the dark come to light. It allows humans to study and observe the behavior of deep-sea species without the interference of harsh floodlights that illuminate a single swatch of area, in which they have no idea if animals are hiding from the light or not. With Sea-Vision, the creatures of the deep can remain as they are, unconcerned about new oddities in their environment.

Sea-Vision was developed to allow for non-participant scientific observation. In other words, the presence of the humans wouldn’t alter the behavior of the organisms they were studying. Before the invention of the SCUBAPS machine, Sea-Vision was used solely in small portions of deep sea submersibles. Made of a material a mere fraction of an inch, the Sea-Vision was easily integrated with other systems. A digital program version of Sea-Vision in which it can be used as a digital projection in any reflective surface was still in beta testing at the time of Allie’s visit to Oceania.

You’ve reached the end of the blog post for this week. Next month will have a whole different focus for the blog posts. Stay tuned (or subscribe to the blog) to be notified of next week’s post. I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post and if you have any comments, you can leave them here on my blog or email me directly at elizataye@gmail.com. As always, I love hearing from my readers.

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