Virtual Reality

How Virtual Reality Makes Geology More Accessible

The idea is that students and others interested in the field of geology can combine virtual and in-person field trips.

“The UW Virtual field geology the project has many objectives: to make field experiences in geology accessible to a greater number of people; document geological sites likely to be threatened by erosion or development; to provide virtual “empty run” experiences that complement field courses and help new students acclimate to the field, and to allow collaborating scientists to virtually visit a field site and explore it together” , the scientists said in a press release.

Even though in most countries people can now travel and meet, the team believe virtual experiences could be part of a “new normal” for geology research and education.

Increase access

“Part of improving access to the field is helping people know what to expect,” lead researcher Juliet Crider said. “Because we can help students anticipate both the outdoor experience and the science experiment, uncertainty and perhaps anxiety is reduced, and people can focus on learning goals. ‘learning.”

Virtual experiences allow people to visit the field site and use common geological tools to measure angles in rock layers or the orientation of fissures that explain the history of a landscape. While a virtual option benefits anyone faced with traveling and accessing a remote field site, it also allows all students and researchers to review techniques before reaching the actual location.

In the web-based virtual experience, keyboard commands allow the user to navigate the landscape. Users can try various tools to measure distances and angles. Selecting three points creates a virtual plane and displays its orientation. Data can be downloaded into a spreadsheet or directly into popular geology software.

“What’s unique about this experience is that it’s open-ended, allowing instructors to tailor lessons and goals,” Crider said. “Students decide what to measure and where to measure to answer the questions – it’s not predetermined. Making these decisions is an important thing to learn.

superhuman powers

The virtual experience also gives the scientist superhuman powers to instantly jump from place to place, and zoom in and out to explore a site at different scales.

“One of the cool things about the game is that you can fly. There’s a little jetpack icon and then you go up in the air, and all of a sudden your perspective changes, and you can fast travel from place to place. to another,” Max Needle, lead author of the study which presents the new technique, says.

It also provides access to sites where access is restricted or risky. For example, at the Whaleback anticline, much of the rock’s curved geometry is exposed at a height of 30 feet, where it is very difficult to walk without risking death.

“As a teaching assistant, I’ve seen students face challenges in the field that go beyond the academic aspect,” Needle said. “Or maybe someone can’t go on the pitch because they have bad asthma, or a particular site is only accessible with specialist climbing gear. We believe many people can benefit from these tools.

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