Gravity Well

White sees space explorers as “explorer fish”, venturing into space and, while creating new civilizations in three stages he calls Terra, Solarius and Galaxie, furthering new growth in their own evolution. – The Overview Effect

Exploration fish’ engaging us in aquabatic performance through play

Designing Gravity Well interactive systems to produce a real-time motion-sound response to the human performing Aquabatics underwater – by displaying the altered-gravity human-movement capabilities through smart-technologies as a first stage-response and a second iteration or mirrored action through an AUV called “explorer fish” in homage to Frank White and his construct of the Overview Effect” [White, 1998]

Developing prototype “exploration fish”.Brightly coloured, glowing “baby fish” display multi-axis movement to mimic human-aquatic movement interactions (aquabatics) with the “mother fish”.

The smart waterproof robotic “Baby Fish” receives Bluetooth commands from the “Mother Fish”. In order to perform multi-axis motion-mimicry, and motion through water, the robot requires an array of silicone tentacles to propel, orientate and stabilize in water. The jellybot or “Baby Fish” light up underwater when receiving motion data from “Mother Fish”. This input controls a real-time movement response to mimic the remote human-aquatic-movement by the player. The installation uses low lighting to amplify the changing states of illumination by the “baby fish” creating highly visible displays of movement and refraction through the water. This design choice enhances the sci-fi futuristic theme and fantasy element.

Demonstration aquabatics with prototype “mother fish” performed and documented by Dr. Sarah Jane Pell and body architect Lucy McRae at the Adelphi Pool, Melbourne Australia Jan 2013.

Recommendations for full-scale prototype technology – including the complete design of a responsive AUV and underwater communications array, and robust manufacture of the aesthetic silicone moulding. It is our intention to engage in vigerous shall-water underwater play with an underwater rugby team, a hydrotherapy class, a professional dance class, a young family and then deeper with a commercial diving crew and trainee astronauts in both controlled and open-water environments by May 2013.


Gravity Well invites the player to become immersed underwater in a water tank designed to reflect a sci-fi futuristic theme of the Lunar 2040 Olympiad. The player can either hold their breath or use an oxygen supply, however we use a snorkel for simplicity. Gravity Well encourages communication between the body in water and two underwater play objects we call “explorer fish” to perform aquabatic movements. The goal of the game is to keep the “mother fish” in between the bottom of the “ocean-space” and the surface by communicating with the “baby fish” through moving the baby fish by means of moving the water around it. The baby fish provides a real-time visual response to the player’s human-aquatic movement interactions. This data control the motion of the mother fish, communicated wirelessly through water. By communicating with and through the water, the player engages in an aquabatic performance through play.

Participants are informed to bring bathers and a towel. We will also ask participants to sign a simple waiver based on forms we have used for underwater interactivity in the past via the CANVAS online interactive app: Assumption of risk/liability waiver agreement for underwater sport/play or interaction as recognised by the Underwater Society of America. This can be done via a mobile app – before the conference or on-site via mobile app or hard copy. Next, the participants are given a mask and snorkel, a preliminary briefing and assisted into the water. The “explorer fish” are released and the game starts. The public audience shall have full-view of underwater interactions through the transparent glass walls and a projection outside. The water-feature will be illuminated to amplify the textural interactions between the bubbles, the bodies, technologies and water movement. The participant will also be able to see and interact with the audience: to guide, support, applaud and add a social dimension to the play. Upon completion, usually 3-30 minutes, the AUV propulsion is suspended and participants are assisted from the tank.