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EOS Announces Cutting-Edge 3D Visualisation Laboratory

21 Mar 2016

The Earth Observatory unveiled its new 3D Visualisation Laboratory earlier this year, with the support of the Ministry of Education and Nanyang Technological University. Among the first of its kind in Singapore, the state-of-the-art facility will enable scientists to dig deeper into complex datasets, and students to go on virtual field trips, training them to think in three dimensions. “It’s a powerful way for us to explore the earth and look at structures and features from different angles,” said Assistant Professor Judith Hubbard, a structural geologist who studies earthquake hazards at the Earth Observatory.

Much like an IMAX movie you may see in 3D, the Visualisation Laboratory provides an immersive experience. The laboratory is powered by a 4K back-projected, active-source system requiring users to wear special powered glasses, enabling the brain to construct a 3D image. Hubbard’s undergraduate structural geology class will take their first virtual field trip during the current semester. In this virtual field trip, they’ll dig into different kinds of structures at different depths below the Earth’s surface to see how geological processes deform rocks. The virtual trip will complement a three-day field trip the students just took to see deformation near Mersing, Malaysia. “This will allow us to extend that experience into a more global view,” says Hubbard.

As datasets become more complex, geosciences require a way to integrate datasets into a visual, observable model. The 3D Visualisation Laboratory meets this challenge. Hubbard uses it to look at 3D subsurface models of faults and earthquakes built in a programme called GoCAD. This allows them to look at the relationships between faults, historical earthquakes and microseismicity, topography, and geology. Hubbard and her team have already built models for the recent 2015 Gorkha earthquake in Nepal, the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in China, eastern Bangladesh, the Big Bend region of Southern California, as well as Mount Batur in Bali, Indonesia. “It’s a good way to explore complex datasets,” says Hubbard. “It’s also an interesting way to explore hazard mapping.”

As well as displaying complex subsurface models of faults, the lab can be used for various purposes, from tracking water flow, to viewing three-dimensional crystal structures, or even visualising the structure of downtown Singapore, according to Hubbard. “There are many potential applications.”