As part of the Georesource Exploration and Characterization course at Uppsala University, we successfully launched a new practical for the SINReM students using Augmented Reality (AR) sandbox and Virtual Reality (VR) headset. 3D visual perception is a key skill to understand geology and related processes. Most of the conventional teaching methods and tools to communicate geological complexities usually rely on 2D media such as maps and profiles. This comes with a high level of abstraction and interpretation that can sometimes be challenging for students. Besides, visualizing geological information in 3D allows students to experience processes of the Earth and makes them feel like they are outside the classroom. We bring the fieldwork into the lab!
Naturally, virtual visualization should never replace field courses in the education of earth scientists, but it can be a complementary approach. Moreover, field course require time, organizational efforts and can be affected by weather conditions especially in Sweden (from October to April). Advocates of such technologies also emphasize the need to open virtual field practice for students facing socioeconomic pressures, logistical complications or disabilities, who often have to preclude their participation to conventional fieldwork.
With the AR sandbox, students explore in a haptic way complex landscapes, geological structures, and relationships between subsurface processes and topography. They simply use their own hands to build mountains, dig valleys, to then observe the results and gain valuable 3D geological intuition! With the VR technology, students have access to numerous geological objects and virtual 3D rock samples almost in fieldtrip conditions, they can also use it as a self-learning tool.
SINReM students experienced it and they gave us very positive feedback: “it was interactive and motivating”, “we have learned a lot while having fun”, “we observed geological objects in China and USA in less than one hour this is pretty cool” ….
Many thanks to Simon Virgo from Terranigma for helping us to set up the Gempy Sanbox and to Rémi Vachon for the perfect calibration.