Combining a powerful data engine with a virtual geological toolkit, GeoVisionary software is allowing  stereoscopic 3-D visualization of terabytes of landscape photography and altitude data together with underlying geological data, making it of great interest to mining and exploration geologists. Developed jointly by Virtalis, a U.K.-based virtual reality and advanced visualization company, and the British Geological Survey (BGS), the software enables the visualization of underlying geological modeling in 3-D and allows other related geoscience data, such as geotechnical, environmental and geochemical information to be overlaid onto it, giving a complete picture and allowing viewers to “fly” through an area of interest—above or below ground.

Two years ago, the BGS installed two identical Virtalis StereoWorks visualization systems at its Keyworth headquarters and Edinburgh office. Once the BGS geological teams appreciated the ability to explore their geological data in full stereoscopic
3-D, they initiated the collaboration with the supplier. BGS has already used the application to validate and plan projects internationally using local or satellite-derived data.

Bruce Napier, leader of BGS’ Virtual Field Reconnaissance project, described GeoVisionary as “...a huge leap in geoscience visualization technology. Never before have geoscientists had such advanced visualization at their fingertips. The full richness of our geoscience data can be visualized in seconds. What began as a simple field reconnaissance project for geologists has numerous uses for a diverse range of organizations.”

Andrew Connell, technical director at Virtalis, explained: “What marks Geo-
Visionary out is the quality and detail of the images we have achieved and its speed. It is possible to “fly” to any part of the U.K. in seconds. Nor do you need a powerful workstation to operate GeoVisionary. We designed the system for geologists in the field using laptops. Even so, there are 70 billion triangles in the data set and 15 trillion pixels in the images, which is understandable when you consider there are height measurements every 5 m and photographs of the terrain give a pixel for every 25 cm. We have built in seamless streaming, merging detailed pictures, geological notes, historical maps and subsurface data from boreholes in real time. GeoVisionary is infinitely scalable because the system only remembers where it is looking at any given moment. Each field of view comprises 2 million triangles which are updated 100 times a second. The novel data formats give the ability to visualize as you fly, continuously streaming both geometry and photography to imperceptibly update the world around you, giving a landscape that rapidly morphs before your eyes. It is visually stunning and highly useable.”

GeoVisionary is able to import several different data sources from a range of geographical information systems. These systems include individual geo-referenced and non geo-referenced image files, GeoTIFF images, JPG images, TGA images, SRTM data, most formats of GOCAD, GSI3D - GXML, LiDAR point cloud data surface or points and Enhanced Compression Wave-
lets. The current version 1.0 of GeoVision-
ary has a gazetteer (geographical dictionary); users can bookmark places and annotate the terrain, and save annotations into their own software.

The application runs on laptop PCs and on the Solaris 10 x 64 Operating System (OS) using Sun Ultra 40 workstations. This latter combination is able to cope efficiently and effectively with the large scale data workloads.  Demonstrations for the African mining and geographical information systems (GIS) communities took place recently at the IGARSS IEEE International Geo-
science & Remote Sensing Symposium in Cape Town, South Africa. 

One of the first GeoVisionary resellers to be recruited is Canada-based Pacific Geomatics, a satellite remote sensing company based in Vancouver, which has been providing digital satellite imagery to Canadian government departments and to major and mid-tier mining and exploration companies worldwide. According to Geoff Tomlins, Pacific Geomatics’ president, a program of demonstrations to mining in-
dustry representatives is under way.

The Brazilian operation of professional services consultancy Coffey International Ltd. has entered into a preliminary strategic partnership with Virtalis, who showcased the GeoVisionary software at Coffey’s booth during EXPOSIBRAM 2009 in Brazil.

Coffey said it plans to expand its VR and visualization service offering across a range of industrial sectors.

The Virtalis and BGS teams also are working to extend GeoVisionary’s ability to connect to external applications over a network link for control and modification and expect to announce the list of additional packages later in the year. According to Virtalis’ Andrew Connell, “A real momentum is building up behind GeoVisionary. With version 1.0 already well received, we are creating an extensive list of functions for inclusion in the next release.”

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