Virtual Reality

Effective VR visualization is about more than viewing data in three dimensions. It allows scientists to interact with 3D data and experience first-hand how the underlying system represented by those data reacts to manipulation. DCO’s Modeling and Visualization Forum at the University of California Davis, USA (UC Davis) is developing several virtual reality (VR) applications to assist DCO scientists working in multiple research areas. These visualizations allow scientists to observe, manipulate, and share their data in new and innovative ways.

DCO's VR visualizations are built on a foundation created by the UC Davis W.M. Keck Center for Active Visualization in the Earth Sciences (KeckCAVES). Three specific VR projects are underway.

At the 2018 AGU Fall Meeting, Louise Kellogg and Oliver Kreylos (UC Davis) convened a day-long workshop giving synthesis project leads a hands-on look at how to apply VR to scientific research and discovery. This workshop kickstarted some of the projects listed here.


Mineral Network Visualization

vr mineral networksDCO scientists are investigating the relationships between different types of carbon minerals. Working with the DCO Data Science Team, they developed software to create mineral networks, consisting of nodes and connections between the nodes (see Carbon Mineral Evolution). These networks can be laid out in 3D space and presented in virtual reality for visual observation and exploration, allowing researchers to gain insight into these complex interrelationships.  Researchers can walk through these complex networks, opening up new perspectives that might otherwise be obscured in traditional 2D representations.

Remote Sensing Data to Visualize Volcanic Plumes


vr derived from data sampled from drone flights through volcanic plumes

DCO researchers are using remote sensors to map the distribution of gases above active volcanoes to understand how carbon from Earth's interior is released into the atmosphere (see ABOVE project). They pilot drones equipped with cameras, chemical sensors, and GPS receivers back and forth, around and through volcanic plumes. The resulting data consists of time series of gas concentrations, with each measurement tagged by a GPS-derived 3D position.

The original survey flight paths and reconstructed 3D gas distributions are visualized in a geographic context by superimposing them over high-resolution 3D topographic models. These visualizations are allowing researchers to better understand the duration and composition of volcanic emissions, with the promise of possibly using them in the field for real time sampling and analysis.

Interactive Molecular Dynamics

oliver kreylos at a doc vr workshopAnother area of DCO research involves numerical simulations at the molecular level, including molecular dynamics (MD), to better understand carbon minerals and other organic molecules. To support this research, DCO is extending two visualization applications initially developed at KeckCAVES.

The first is a viewer for results from MD simulations, reconstructing bonds between simulated atoms. This VR environment gives scientists the opportunity not only to watch the simulation evolve over time, but also to measure or tag subsets of atoms and follow them through the simulation as time progresses. Users can immerse themselves in a simulation result by "zooming in" to an area of interest, while still being able to see the context of the rest of the simulation as objects recede into the distance.

The second application is an editor, which makes it possible to create complex 3D molecules or crystal structures from scratch by creating and connecting individual atoms or larger building blocks. Instead of simply viewing results, this application lets users explore results by manipulating them and observing how the molecule or crystal responds.

Back to top