Remote assessment of individual trees with VR

8 December 2017

As discussed and demonstrated at the recent ForestTECH 2017 series (photo), Virtual Reality (VR) technology may offer unique opportunities to fundamentally change forest practices for which human assessment skills are required. VR can situate users inside 3D spatial digital data acquired using terrestrial or airborne platforms with photogrammetric or LiDAR technologies. It can provide users with tools to interact with that data.

An FWPA funded project is currently investigating the potential of VR in forest inventory, particular its capacity to be used for cruising operations. The visualisation of 3D spatial data in a VR environment has advantages over conventional desktop or laptop environments. VR offers the potential for field staff to perform cruising tasks within a 3D and 1:1 scaled immersive environment using their natural perceptual abilities, very similar to physically being in a location.

The current research is developing an immersive environment using dense point cloud data, building software tools to import stem segmentation data extracted using other software packages, and developing tools that will allow users to extract key tree measurements such as diameter, height, sweep and branching.

This research is an extension of an FWPA project, “Deployment and integration of cost-effective high resolution remotely sensed data for the Australian forest industry” (PNC326-131), with the VR work being led by Dr Winyu Chinthammit, research leader at the Human Interface Technology Laboratory (HIT Lab) Australia, School of Engineering & ICT, University of Tasmania.

Forest industry input to these developments will be important. The prototype VR environment was demonstrated at the recent ForestTECH workshops in Rotorua and Melbourne and the team is working closely with leading forest inventory providers, particularly at this stage the Interpine Group, to ensure the capabilities developed have practical applications.

A workshop is also being held at the HIT Lab in Launceston, Tasmania on 8-9 December 2017 to demonstrate and discuss the application of dense point clouds to inventory and to discuss future Australian and New Zealand research initiatives.