Real world-based immersive Virtual Reality for research, teaching and communication in volcanology

Alessandro Tibaldi*, Fabio Luca Bonali, Emanuel Delage, Pareskevi Nomikou, Varvara Antoniou, Ugo Becciani, Benjamin van Wyk de Vries, Mel Krokos, Malcolm Whitworth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Direct outcrop observation and field data collection are key techniques in research, teaching and outreach activities in volcanic areas. However, very often outcrops are of difficult or inaccessible access, such as in areas with active volcanoes or steep cliffs. Classical remote-sensing surveys by satellites or airplanes are expensive, rarely reach sufficient resolution to allow high quality 3D visualisation of volcanic features, and do not facilitate mapping of vertical cliffs. We describe a novel approach that uses the immersive Virtual Reality (VR) based on real world 3D Digital Outcrop Models (DOMs) from images surveyed by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). 3D DOMs are built up using the Structure from Motion (SfM) photogrammetry technique, and a Virtual Reality scene is created using game engine technologies. Immersive real-time exploration of the environment is possible through a head mounted display, e.g. Oculus Rift. Tools
embedded in the VR environment allow the user to map polygons, lines, point features, measure orientation, dip, inclination, azimuth, area, thickness and even take virtual photographs. Using three examples of volcanic areas with different geological features, we demonstrate the potential of our approach to allow users to be able to virtually map and measure remotely, and to collect data for research and teaching. Our approach is of paramount importance also for outreach, as it allows non-specialist audiences (e.g. common citizens) to experience and appreciate highly complex volcanic features through customised, hands-on immersive VR tools.
Original languageEnglish
Article number38
JournalBulletin of Volcanology
Publication statusPublished - 28 Apr 2020


  • Virtual Reality
  • Natural hazards
  • drone
  • Teaching
  • Research
  • visualisation


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