For many of us, virtual reality (VR) is a relatively expensive new technology utilized to enhance the video game experience. But for the Bureau of Economic Geology’s Robin Dommisse, VR is a not-so-new and not-so-expensive technology that offers geoscientists incredible options to enrich their ability to visualize the nuances of rock formations.
“Recent advances in virtual reality headset technology and software have made it easier and more affordable than ever before to capture, visualize, and interact with geology in 3D,” explains Dommisse. “As geoscientists, we care about using VR as a tool because it enables us to better study rock outcrops using computers.”
Virtual reality is now practical for creating and utilizing fantastically detailed images that help geoscientists examine and analyze rocks and formations. Affordable VR headsets capable of wireless VR streaming have recently become available to leverage the powerful three-dimensional (3D) graphics capabilities of modern PCs. Today many free and low-cost software solutions can be paired with current entry-level VR headsets. In addition, there are several ways to freely share 3D VR models with others, which leads to better communication and collaboration among geoscientists.
Dommisse added, “3D geological outcrop digitization can now be achieved using public sources of lidar and satellite imagery in combination with high-resolution, drone-based photogrammetry workflows.” The potential for VR technology to augment and improve geoscience research is almost unlimited.
To see a recent presentation by Robin Dommisse about the latest geological adaptations of VR technology, featuring Bureau outcrop studies from Senior Research Scientist Charles Kerans and Ph.D. candidate Buddy Price, please go to the Bureau’s YouTube channel.