3D visualisation systems

BGS Research

Geoscience visualisation is a fast-growing area and the BGS is one of the world leaders in its application and development. Visualisation systems enable geoscientists to communicate with each other and with end users from diverse disciplines to better understand complex and varied datasets.

The three-dimensional visualisation systems (3DVS) team works closely with business partners to develop immersive visualisation systems and techniques for geoscientists.

Information icon

A montage of 3DVS visualisations in GeoVisionary. BGS © UKRI.

3D visualisation provides a mechanism for the communication of BGS science. BGS © UKRI.

We use the latest software and hardware to visualise geoscience data in 3D and provide a mechanism for effective communication of BGS science. By using dedicated 3D visualisation facilities to run software such as GeoVisionary, geological understanding and risk/confidence is more easily conveyed.

The 3DVS team has been involved in a number of high-profile projects such as the UK Geoenergy Observatories.

The BGS is proud to develop GeoVisionary in collaboration with Virtalis Ltd.

GeoVisionary is a world-leading geoscientific information system for visualisation and interpretation of geoscience datasets in a virtual reality environment.

Geoscientists use a wide variety of software to answer specific questions. Each is usually modelled and visualised in its own package. GeoVisionary is the first software to offer the ability to comprehensively visualise all of these elements together in a single, immersive, 3D stereoscopic environment, as well as on desktop PCs and laptops.

Geoscience datasets are often huge and high-resolution visualisation can be difficult with existing software. GeoVisionary solves this problem by loading entire baseline datasets (DEM and Imagery) of virtually unlimited size and detail, allowing the user to load localised data from diverse sources without delay.  GeoVisionary’s powerful graphics rendering engine gives seamless, real-time access to the entire data resource.

We have created an add-in for ArcGIS that links the GIS with GeoVisionary, connecting traditional GIS with the 3D virtual landscape.

Image from a GeoVisionary visualisation, developed for UKGEOS, showing a geological model of Glasgow combined with a city model, controlled by a custom user interface
Image from a GeoVisionary visualisation, developed for the UK Geoenergy Observatories, showing a geological model of Glasgow combined with a city model, controlled by a custom user interface. BGS © UKRI.

The BGS virtual field reconnaissance (VFR) workflow was recently used in cooperation with the Chilean Geological Survey (SERNAGEOMIN) and the Chilean National Mining Company (ENAMI) for geological mapping in a complex area of Andean geology.

Pre-fieldwork, geologists used GeoVisionary with high-resolution satellite imagery, terrain models and geological information to digitise geological features, re-interpret existing maps and identify and prioritise targets for field investigation.

This interpretation was taken to the field locations to be verified and augmented by geologists using the BGS digital data capture system (BGS SIGMA), leading to a final geological interpretation and creation of a geological map.

Using GeoVisionary and the BGS VFR workflow means that geologists go into the field with a good understanding of the terrain that they are interpreting. Pre-field interpretation and target prioritisation focus the field effort and increase efficiency; valuable field time is not wasted in areas that could be interpreted with VFR. The result is an improved geological map in less time.

The BGS immersive 3D Visualisation Facility in Keyworth: Chilean geologists engaged in Virtual field reconnaissance the Ovalle region of Chile
The BGS immersive 3D visualisation facility in Keyworth. Chilean geologists are engaged in virtual field reconnaissance of the Ovalle region of Chile. BGS © UKRI.

Visualisation and interpretation of regional resources and their properties is important for assessing potential reserves and hazards associated with their extraction and their impact on the environment. The 3DVS team can help bring together hundreds of datasets into GeoVisionary to show relative locations and analyse such things as:

  • aquifers and their permeability
  • shale rock gas/oil net maturity
  • lithological variation of soils and rocks in and around cities

 

Voxel model showing distribution of Bowland Shale in the north of England

Voxel model showing distribution of Bowland Shale in the north of England. BGS © UKRI.

BGS terrestrial LiDAR showing coastal erosion over time. BGS © UKRI.

LiDAR laser scans are routinely used to capture the morphology of quarries, cliffs, caves and tunnels along with other geological data to attain very fine-resolution datasets to millimetric precision. These scans can contain a number of points ranging from a few thousand to several billion. The 3DVS team works closely with our laser-scanning experts to help visualise these points in the virtual world.

Figures 1 and 2 show how laser-scanned point clouds have been visualised with GeoVisionary to help monitoring and understanding of coastal erosion. Loading multiple scans allows measurements to be taken between scans from different dates. Stitching together the onshore LiDAR and offshore bathymetry data, both at 1 m spatial resolution, results in a seamless elevation surface.

Chesil white ribbon. View in GeoVisionary looking north east at the bedrock geology extending seamlessly from onshore to offshore beneath Chesil beach.
Figure 1: Chesil white ribbon. View in GeoVisionary looking north east at the bedrock geology extending seamlessly from onshore to offshore beneath Chesil beach. BGS © UKRI.

St Alban's Head white ribbon. View in GeoVisionary looking east at St Alban's Head near Swanage, showing the cliffs of Portland Group limestones continuing into the drowned landscape beneath the sea.

Figure 2: St Alban’s Head white ribbon. View in GeoVisionary looking east at St Alban’s Head near Swanage, showing the cliffs of Portland Group limestones continuing into the drowned landscape beneath the sea. BGS © UKRI.

Images contain SurfZone Digital Elevation Model 2014 under Open Government Licence.

A 3D model of the geology and urban environment of central Kuala Lumpur
A 3D model of the geology and urban environment of central Kuala Lumpur. BGS © UKRI.

GeoVisionary provides simultaneous high-resolution 3D visualisation of city models and geoscientific models. UNITEN in Malaysia use GeoVisionary for their ViGMAS Geohazard Virtual Reality for Assets Management System research project.

GeoVisionary helps us to understand the geology under our feet, but it is also an important tool for visualising future developments and communicating risk and environmental impact.

GeoVisionary can visualise live data feeds, here showing real time flood monitoring from the Environment Agency
GeoVisionary can visualise live data feeds, here showing real-time flood monitoring from the Environment Agency. BGS © UKRI.
GeoVisionary training in the BGS classroom
GeoVisionary training in the BGS classroom. BGS © UKRI.

3DVS offer training in GeoVisionary, whether via teach-yourself movies or classes of up to 10 at our Keyworth headquarters in Nottinghamshire. We can also deliver training at customers’ own premises or by video link.

For more information, see the BGS GeoSchool, or contact our BGS Learning and Development for course fees, scheduling and availability.

The 3DVS team is developing VR visualisations with hardware like the HTC Vive (pictured above) and Microsoft Hololens. Models for VR viewing can be deployed in websites like Sketchfab.
The 3DVS team is developing virtual reality (VR) visualisations with hardware like the HTC Vive (pictured) and Microsoft Hololens. Models for VR viewing can be deployed in websites like Sketchfab. BGS © UKRI.

We have a Virtalis ActiveWall single-channel stereographic visualisation system at our headquarters in Keyworth, Nottinghamshire. This system is powered by a PC feeding into a Christie 4K30 projector.

The 3DVS team provides support, training and expertise for the visualisation and analysis of data from GIS and geological models in software such as GeoVisionary, ArcScene, ArcGlobe, Google Earth, NASA World Wind and QT Modeler.

Visiting colleagues from the Swedish Geological Survey in the BGS immersive 3D Visualisation Faciity
Visiting colleagues from the Swedish Geological Survey in the BGS immersive 3D visualisation facility. BGS © UKRI.
The BGS SARndbox installation in the Keyworth reception
The BGS SARndbox installation in the Keyworth reception. BGS © UKRI.

We have installed an augmented sandbox exhibit at our headquarters in Keyworth, Nottinghamshire. Known as the SARndbox, the interactive exhibit was primarily set up for school science events and public open days. However, visitors are welcome to drop anytime during our office opening hours (Monday to Friday 08:00 – 17:30) and have a play.

Originally designed and implemented by Oliver Kreylos at UC Davies’ W. M. Keck Center for Active Visualisation in the Earth Sciences, a small team of BGS staff (Vince Hulland, Bruce Napier and Humphrey Wallis) took the design and developed an improved version. (See Oliver’s original design.) Our improved design uses a better projection path, which produces a cleaner surface image with less shadowing compared to its original counterpart. It also requires a space with lower ceiling clearance than previous models.

The SARnbox system runs on a Dell T5610 PC with the Fedora 19 (KDE edition) operating system on an SSD drive. The PC uses an Intel i7 combined with a Geforce 780GTX graphics card and 8Gb of RAM.  On top we are using an Epson EB 4550 central throw projector with an Xbox 360 Kinect. The Kinect acts as the 3D imaging camera/detector.

As you dig around in the sand,  the Kinect is able to detect the changes in the sand’s surface using a laser light and some basic trigonometry. These changes are then fed back to the SARnbox program, which in turn dynamically remaps the surface image to reflect any changes. This is then output via the overhead projector back on to the surface of the sand. The process is repeated 30 times a second.

Using the same dynamic model, the SARndbox can also calculate and project fluid motion over the virtual surface with some very impressive results.

Meanwhile back at Davis University, Oliver continues to develop the SARndbox app with many new and existing features planned for the next release.

Need more information?

Please contact the BGS enquiries team

You may also be interested in

Image from BGS Geology of Britain Map

Digital geoscience

The BGS is a data-rich organisation. Our data science and data infrastructure are fundamental to our future research and underpin our strategic challenges.

Show more

Was this page helpful?

  • How can we make this section better?*

  • Please select a reason*

  • How can we make this section better?*