GeoVisionary Aids Environmental Research
The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), a public-sector research centre, has begun using Virtalis’ GeoVisionary software to visualise its data in 3D. Gwyn Rees, director of the Environmental Information Data Centre at CEH, explained: “We are always looking for new and innovative ways to access, analyse and communicate our data and had already decided 3D visualisation was ripe for investigation when we saw GeoVisionary at the British Geological Survey (BGS), our sister organisation.”
Both CEH and BGS are part of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) which delivers independent research, survey and training in the environmental sciences to advance knowledge of the Earth as a complex, interacting system. CEH is a custodian of environmental data, including 20 million records of 12,000 species occurring across Britain and Ireland, as well as records of over 50,000 station years of daily and monthly river flow data, derived from over 1,300 gauging stations throughout the UK.
GeoVisionary was developed by Virtalis, in collaboration with BGS, as 3D software for the high-resolution visualisation of elevation and photography data overlaid with a wide range of geospatial data. One of the major advantages GeoVisionary offers over other visualisation software (3 & 4D GIS) is its ability to integrate very large volumes of data from multiple sources and interact with it in real time.
“We’re seeking to exploit the capabilities of GeoVisionary on a variety projects and have provided introductory training to some 40 staff”, said Rees. “Already, we’re finding that we are getting better insights from our data. GeoVisionary also neatly encapsulates our work to visitors, really showcasing our science. So far, we’ve used the system to see how land cover relates to terrain and cross referencing with Ordnance Survey and digital photography layers. In another project, we are analysing the dispersal of plant species in one of our Environmental Change Network networks in the Cairngorms and, GeoVisionary clearly shows how different species congregate in different parts of the terrain. GeoVisionary is enabling us to derive new insights from our pre-existing data.”
“As well as using GeoVisionary to display our hydrological, air quality and floral and faunal data in a user-friendly way,” said Rees, “we are using it to plan fieldwork. GeoVisionary is much clearer than a map and by visiting a site in Virtual Reality (VR) first, we can check access, identify risk areas and give Health and Safety briefings. We are keen to use GeoVisionary on more applications and as a critical means of communicating our science to a wider audience.”
CEH has installed a Virtual Reality (VR) suite, known as a Virtalis ActiveWall, in order to view GeoVisionary in 3D at its headquarters in Wallingford, Oxfordshire. ActiveWall is an installed, immersive, interactive 3D visualisation system and probably the best selling VR system in the world. Movements within the ActiveWall environment are tracked using a tracking system. This added functionality alters the perspective of the visuals according to the user’s position and orientation within the scene to give a natural and accurate sense of relationship and scale. The hand held controller allows the immersive experience to be enhanced further. The user can navigate through the virtual world, pick and manipulate the model in real-time and make decisions on the fly. CEH has also installed the desktop version of Geovisionary at each of its other three regional offices in Bangor, Edinburgh and Lancaster, and has also a portable VR system, so it can take GeoVisionary on the road.