Transforming reality into photorealistic Virtual Reality with laser scanning
Author: Reka Vasszi
While Virtual Reality (VR) is commonly associated with video games, it is shaping many industries by opening a vast array of new possibilities to sell products, experience places or train employees. VR has multiple applications based on the ability to immerse users in a safe virtual world and fully experience a different environment by involving most senses.
Reality in Virtual Reality Ltd. (RiVR), a developer of VR experiences in England, is enhancing the way humans learn by offering immersive training and educational programmes for all industries. VR-based training programmes can immerse users in realistic situations, such as crime or fire scenes, that cannot be reproduced easily in real life.
The immersive experience RiVR offers is ideal for applications in the public safety sector where VR provides students a way to gain valuable experience of dangerous or life-threatening environments from the safety of a training room. The Fire and Rescue Service and the Department of Science and Technology Laboratory in the United Kingdom both requested RiVR to produce a hyper-realistic recreation of fire and crime scene scenarios based on real-world events to develop virtual training programmes for their trainees. The goal of the training is to prepare students for the appropriate behaviour and actions in stressful situations. A Virtual Reality Monitor (VRM) developed by RiVR allows the trainers to observe how the candidates interact with the scene and gives a comprehensive overview of the training session.
Using the Leica RTC360 laser scanner, in combination with photogrammetry, RiVR was able to develop life-like virtual environments where the fire and police officers of the future can be trained.
Virtual firefighters and detectives
Pioneering with its first product, RiVR Investigate, the company is complementing real-world training of firefighters, police officers and crime scene investigators with an immersive photorealistic VR experience. RiVR Investigate allows the new recruits to gain exposure in a controlled and consistent way. Exposing trainees to a real fire and dangerous situations for the first time might result in stress and fear for the job. VR technology also allows police officers and investigators to undertake a range of simulations and recreate any murder scene that would not be possible otherwise.
In RiVR Investigate training solution trainees get access to six different fire investigation scenarios, two hazardous material incidents, and two crime scenes. The RiVR software also records all the actions taken by the trainee for review. The team of developers is looking to work with more fire services and police forces to increase the VR scenario library year on year.
But, how are these real-life situations transformed into virtual simulations? RiVR partnered with Leica Geosystems and uses the Leica RTC360 to produce high-resolution topology of large scenes. The highly-portable and automated RTC360 empowered the team to document and capture the crime scenes and the burnt-out buildings fast and to the finest detail.
“We use the RTC360 when we scan large environments that don't lend themselves to photogrammetry. Then onto the scans, we overlay high-resolution imagery to produce millimetre accurate photo-realistic environments of any size. We also find the RTC360 very useful in environments that are very hard to do a photogrammetry scan, such as a mainly white lab, which doesn’t have much randomness [points of reference] to it,” explained Alex Harvey, creative director at RiVR.
Capturing reality to enhance learning
Experiencing new challenging environments for the first time, such as a murder scene or a fire, provides valuable context and locational awareness of situations for the candidates, otherwise difficult to replicate without significant costs. With the ability to mirror with millimetre precision the real world through laser scanning, professionals can create engaging real-life experiences for multiple applications, including photorealistic VR training for public safety.
In a BBC Click episode featuring VR applications, Paul Speight, watch manager at Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service, states students trained in a VR environment are more engaged. According to a recent report by the National Training Laboratory in the United States, retention rate of learning using VR scored 75 per cent. In contrast, other lecture-style methods were at 5 per cent.
VR created with laser scanning and photogrammetry can place users in any number of different places, situations or environments, and can be deployed to teach awareness, build skills, and provide valuable experience to those who risk their lives to help others.
This article first appeared in the May 2019 issue of xyHt magazine.