INTERACTIVE GEO-INFORMATION IN VIRTUAL REALITY – OBSERVATIONS AND FUTURE CHALLENGES
Visualization applications are an increasingly significant component in the field of 3D geo-information. In them, the utilization of consumer grade virtual reality (VR) head mounted displays (HMD) has become a topical research question. It is notable, that in most presented implementations, the VR visualization is accomplished by a game engine. As game engines rely on textured mesh models as their conventional 3D asset format, the challenge in applying photogrammetric or laser scanning data is in producing models than are suitable for game engine use. We present an example of leveraging immersive visualization in geo-information, including the acquisition of data from the intended environment, processing it to a game engine compatible form, developing the required functions on the game engine and finally utilizing VR HMDs to deploy the application. The presented application combines 3D indoor models obtained via a commercial indoor mapping system, a 3D city model segment obtained by processing airborne laser scanning data, and a set of manually created 3D models. The performance of the application is evaluated on two different VR systems. The observed capabilities of interactive VR applications include: 1) intuitive and free exploration of 3D data, 2) ability of operate in different scales, and with different scales of data, 3) integration of different data types (such as 2D imaging and 3D models) in interactive scenes and 4) the possibility to leverage the rich interaction functions offered by the game engine platform. These capabilities could support several use cases in geo-information.