Case Study - British Geological Survey


British Geological Survey

Virtalis has two of its ActiveWorks visualisation systems installed at British Geological Survey’s Keyworth HQ as well as its office in Edinburgh.

The success of the first system was such that an almost identical one was installed at BGS Edinburgh. The twin systems enable geologists to explore their geological data in full stereo 3D.


Dr. Martin Smith, Head of Station, BGS, Edinburgh, explained: ”Geologists naturally think in 3D, but until now they have had to translate their ideas onto a 2D record. This 2D record, in the form of a map, was then re-interpreted into 3D by other geologists. With this tool the need to move from 3D to 2D and back again is negated. We have experience of visualisation with the oil and gas industry, but what has impressed me about the Virtalis system is how it encourages teamwork. A project team can work together to construct a 3D model, interact with the data and interpret them as a group. I believe this could become a great training tool for young geologists, as, with a 3D model, it quickly becomes apparent what aspects require more survey work. When planning or analysing a field survey, we can use the system to assimilate material from various sources. For example, aerial photographs can be draped onto a digital terrain model and radar, satellite imagery, digital bore holes, mine plans and any previous geological data can be overlaid, giving us the most complete picture possible.”


The BGS ActiveWall configuration consists of a single large screen onto which stereoscopic images are rear projected by a Christie Mirage S+4K projector, which is capable of extremely high resolution and brightness. All of the rooms’ functions were integrated into a control system operated by a wireless touch panel, so that light, sound and other inputs can be controlled by a single button press. Additionally, to provide enhanced communication between remote locations, both systems have been provided with access grid video conferencing functions. The theatres seat 18 people, but, as they also feature a wireless IS-900 tracking system from Intersense, two to three people can interact immersively with their models.

generic-h-small_profile-display-2b-gradient-plane-2b-profile-spline-2b-note-accuracy-with-os-216pxHOW THE SYSTEMS ARE USED

BGS’s geologists are employed on several projects in Northern England and Scotland both onshore and offshore, including the Northwest Highlands Geopark, the Firth of Forth, Hadrian’s Wall, the Lake District and Snowdonia. They are using various software packages to help them develop their 3D models, including GoCad, ArcScene and Fledermaus. Virtalis has also helped develop a software application to aid interpretation of geology within the Assynt area and the North Pennines Geopark. Using the tracking system, a geologist is consequently able to immerse himself in the geology and landscape and explore the data virtually.

Dr. Stuart Clarke, a Survey Geologist at BGS and responsible for the development of many of the 3D models, commented: “The reaction to the Virtalis systems have been very positive. Now groups of between five and seven geologists can work on the pre-survey planning together, as well as the post survey analysis. The 3D element doesn’t just interest geologists. It makes our data available to visitors and external clients by bringing them to life. Being able to represent in 3D what already exists could help tear down the barriers between specialists and non specialists.”

generic-h-small_image_2566Teams from the BGS use their Virtalis systems for video conferencing and as part of the special university Access Grid that allows academics to share their latest findings nationally and internationally.

British Geological Survey Website

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