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UniSA forest virtual reality project underway

5 April 2023

Plantation managers may soon be able to walk through large sections of forests, zero in on defects, check wood quality, and get a quicker overview on progress, all without leaving their office. Researchers at the University of South Australia are working to achieve just this by collecting as much data about plantations as possible and moving it all into virtual reality.

Leading the project Spencer O’Keeffe, a PhD candidate at the university’s interactive and virtual environment, said the project could be a major leap for forestry management.

“Data practices in forestry are pretty well established,” Mr O’Keeffe said. “The last sort of 100 years things have been based on the same process … but in the last couple of years, tools for remote sensing have become more viable for use in industry.

“My work is looking at using immersive analytics tools, which are virtual reality, augmented reality and 3D environments to actually interact with virtual subsets of the forest and gain a deeper understanding of the inner workings.”

Ideally, the technology will be able to run an algorithm and highlight points of interest or potential problems for plantation managers, such as hidden faults or wood quality that would be otherwise easily missed when walking through a forest.

“You would be able to optimise the process and minimise the waste,” Mr O’Keeffe said. You would do it in a way that is repeatable and adjustable … it will let you jump back in time 20 years and understand why decisions were made back then.”

Only one year into his three-year project, Mr O’Keeffe’s results are already proving exciting to the industry. OneFortyOne forest digital twin program manager Michelle Balasso said she has been amazed at what could be achieved.

“What Spencer has been able to show us already, that you can visualise these trees from an office is incredible,” Dr Balasso said. “This is a new step towards the precise level of forest management that we are aiming to go towards. This particular project is bringing precision forestry into practice at an unprecedented level.”

Photo: ABC South East SA: Elsie Adamo

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Source: ABC

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