Advanced Visualisation Lab

Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality Technologies

The Advanced Visualisation Lab contains a variety of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies, including our classical modules as well as state-of-the-art applications. Equipment ranges from a floor-to-ceiling, 360o, 3D VR theatre also referred to as the Advanced Visualisation and Interaction Environment (AVIE), to mobile-based AR, to consumer VR headsets like the Oculus Quest.

Located within the School of Minerals and Energy Resources Engineering, the technology has been developed over the past 15 years as we strive to keep pushing the boundaries of innovative education. This journey began in collaboration with our industry partners for the purpose of developing training material for our students who have reaped the benefits ever since.

These devices are used to immerse students in site environments, to explain complex four dimensional concepts and even for interactive virtual group assessments.
The Advanced Visualisation Lab represents so much of what is important to us here at the School: innovation, high-quality education, and industry partnerships. These innovations culminate in a vision that creates industry-relevant experiences, which travel far beyond the textbook - and directly to the heart of experiential learning.

We simulate various mine environments - from open-cut to underground, from hard rock to gas reservoirs. By using 3D simulation, potential hazards are safely experienced, designs are tested and feasibility studies consolidated. Additionally, concepts and theories can be tested and challenged like never before.

Visualisation Types

VR provides an excellent opportunity to immerse users into repeatable examples of what mines look like, how they operate and what hazards might be present -- all from the safety of a classroom. Within Minerals and Energy Resources Engineering, we use this visualisation technology for three broad applications:

  1. Showing example footage of the real-world that can be difficult for students to normally access
  2. Presenting a simulation of the world so we can highlight particular features
  3. Concept visualisation presenting the data in a new way that is easier to understand

Footage

Using 360 degree camera technology we can capture footage of what a real-world operation is like at a particular point in time. We have extensive experience in this field and have been producing 360 degree content of mines and petroleum sites from a range of locations. Our technology provides us with the unique opportunity to offer our students virtual field trips to strengthen their industry exposure from the classroom. 

Mobile VR Headsets displaying footage from real operations

Figure 1. Mobile VR Headsets displaying footage from real operations

Simulation

Using the latest computer game technology, we can create detailed replicas of mining (Figure 2) and petroleum scenarios, which allow students to experience a situation that is impossible to capture with a camera. For example, we can simulate the consequences of not following the correct procedures in an underground mine and what the outcomes could look/feel like. We’re excited about this type of training as students put their problem-solving skills to practice and can even get creative to design a virtual mine in VR.

Mine simulation using VR

Figure 2. Example of mine simulations using VR

Concept Visualisation

We can also take advantage of the size and depth of the visualisation that VR provides and start to explore Big Data (Figure 3) and other difficult concepts like never before. We can place people in the “rock mass” to observe seismic events taking place around them through time, or let them visualise a traditionally 2D mineral processing flowsheet by flying through it in 3D like a piece of ore.

VR theatre for Big Data Visualisation

Figure 3. Example of the use of an immersive VR theatre for Big Data Visualisation

How we use VR & AR Technology

We utilise both group, individual and multiplayer VR/AR technology for different purposes. The AVIE is our 3D VR theatre that can host 30 visitors at any time and has a closing door that provides a full 360o image. This image is useful to quickly immerse a group of students in a virtual world (Figure 4).

UNSW AVIE VR theatre showing simulated mining content

Figure 4. UNSW MERE AVIE (8m) showing some simulated mining content

Our Technology

We also use the latest VR headset technology such as the Oculus Rift, Oculus Go and Oculus Quest, which are selected for different types of media and experiences. We also have several multiplayer VR headset activities where the students can be guided by an expert or in teams to problem solve a design issue.

Students also have access to cutting edge AR hardware such as the Microsoft Hololens and mobile-based AR using iPads and Android devices to place virtual objects within the physical world that they can interact with and walk around. VR and AR are exciting fields as they open up the possibility for students to have their own virtual mine models and equipment to take home and place on their desk to examine using their mobile device.

Capabilities

We pride ourselves on being a world leader in developing interactive VR/AR visualisation tools to enhance the student experience. We regularly host visitors from other mining universities who like to see our latest developments on how our students are improving. We specialise in developing engaging learning experiences that go beyond the pages of a textbook to help teach some of the more complex engineering concepts.

Training Programs

A tailored training program can be developed for anyone without a mining background. We’ll work with you to develop or tailor the topic areas based on our current modules. A simple assessment plan can also be developed and tailored to your needs.

For further information, contact the School of Minerals and Energy Resources Engineering.

VR/AR Modules

Currently, there are more than 20 modules available in the school. Here are some of our examples:

 

Module

Brief Description

Year created

Content

Platform

Mining System Data Visualiser (MSDV)

Load in any mine data surfaces (DXF) or point clouds (CSV) and display their development through time in VR with multi-player VR headset capability for distance collaboration and viewing of mine design data.

In dev

3D VR

AVIE_2, Oculus Rift

ViMine 3

A multi-player collaborative mine planning exercise where users place infrastructure around an open pit, place and scale dumps/tailings and draw haul roads in VR.

In dev

3D VR

AVIE_2, Oculus Rift

ViMoon

A multi-player collaborative mine planning exercise module where users place mine infrastructure and draw haul roads in VR on a moon crater terrain landscape.

In dev

3D VR

AVIE_2, Oculus Rift

Sustainable Mine Operation

A scenario-based module where users view a socio-environmental trigger situation from an actual mine site, then choose a response and view the consequences of that action.

In dev

360o VR

AVIE_2, Oculus Go

Coal Burst

A simulated coal burst to allow the viewer to experience the event and then explore the aftermath to view animated videos of 8 contributing factors to a high coal burst prone environment.

2019

3D VR

AVIE_2, Oculus Go

Hazard Awareness 2

An updated simulation of an underground coal mine heading development section with a series of hazards present in the environment for students to find, answer questions and select the correct course of action to observe the hazard being controlled.

2019

3D VR

AVIE, Oculus Rift

Mining Equipment Showcase

Ability to place multiple simulated and static pieces of mining equipment in a room or on a table and scale up to life-size.

2019

AR

iPad

Petroleum Awareness

A virtual field trip to a simulated coal seam gas wellhead and oil wellhead with a cross-section explanation of the reservoir geology and well-established process. Then a visit to a series of offshore oil rigs for a 360o walkaround tour of the layout.

2019

3D VR & 360o VR

AVIE_2, Oculus Go

Mineral Processing Flowsheet

A display of the copper mineral processing system by extending upon the traditional flowsheet circuit diagram to include a simulation of the complete process where the user can travel between stages as a piece of ore and view 3D animations of equipment, then link this to 360o views of what an actual processing plant looks like at each location.

2017

3D VR & 360o VR

AVIE_2, Oculus Rift

MEA Mineral Awareness

A journey into the mineral origins of the components that go into making a smartphone, and then a Q/A experience where students virtually visit mines in Australia where some of these minerals are mined, collecting components as they go to build their very own virtual smartphone.

2016

360o VR

AVIE_2, Gear VR, Oculus Go

Block Caving Mining System Visualiser (BCMSV)

The display of block cave specific mine data with a case study dataset to observe impacts on rock mass response from caving as evident through the seismic event database.

2015

3D VR

AVIE_1

Coal Geology

A journey through time to experience the environmental conditions from the Jurassic period where coal begins to form, through to the compaction and maturation of the coal seam through its different stages.

2013

3D VR

AVIE_1, SeePilot

Longwall Top Coal Caving

A simulation of a longwall top coal caving operation where the user stands at the face and observes the shearer and chocks interacting in operating conditions. Then a cross-section view of each step in the longwall sequence and how the top coal caving process works.

2012

3D VR

AVIE_1

Northparkes Mine Visualisation

A collection of 360o footage from locations around the Northparkes mine and town to take people on a virtual tour of the operation above ground and below. Developed in partnership with Rio Tinto.

2012

360o VR

AVIE_1

Block Caving Ground Support

Contains a block cave extraction level and allows a user to select a rib and roof section to install rock support and observe the effect through time if not enough money is spent on support. Ability to earn money with time if conditions stay good.

2011

3D VR

AVIE_1, AVIE_2, Oculus Rift

Laboratory Rock Testing

A basic simulation of a UCS rock testing machine where a user can insert samples into a virtual testing machine and observe the results.

2011

3D VR

AVIE_1

MEA Truck and Shovel

A collection of 360o footage from truck and shovel mine operations to view the equipment interaction and operating conditions. Then view an interactive Talpac simulation matching truck numbers and loading styles with a shovelling system.

2011

3D VR & 360o VR

AVIE_1

ViMine 2

An interactive mine planning example where a user can place mine infrastructure around an open-pit mine, draw the haul road, pipeline and access road layouts and view a simulation of the operation based on their design.

2011

3D VR

AVIE_1

ViMine 1

An exploratory dive into the selection of a mining method for a deposit based on the user configuring its depth and orientation, then selecting the weighting factors for a mining method selection, finally viewing videos of the various mining methods.

2010

3D VR & Video

AVIE_1, PC

Deputies Inspection

Contains a 3D representation of a room and pillar coal mine. The user takes on the role of a deputy manager and must conduct a pre-shift inspection, ensuring the site is safe for the next shift to commence.

2009

3D VR

AVIE_1

Gas Outburst

A simulation of a coal mine development heading where incorrect operating procedures are employed, leading to a violent gas outburst event. The user can experience this and then explore the aftermath of the event to observe causative factors for a gas outburst.

2009

3D VR

AVIE_1, Gear VR

Hazard Awareness

Contains a 3D representation of a coal mine bord and pillar development in which 24 hazards are present. Users can navigate through the mine and select areas which are deemed as hazardous. They are then presented with a series of questions, after which hazards are fixed.

2009

3D VR

AVIE_1

Isolation Procedures

Contains a 3D representation of a coal mine room & pillar development. The module is split up into six sub-modules, each of which allows users to follow a mining procedure, answer questions and examine the issues involved in the correct isolation and restoration of energy.

2009

3D VR

AVIE_1

Mining in a Global Environment

A virtual site tour of the Ranger mine in Kakadu National Park. Users can combine the contained photo/video resources into virtual "workspaces" to tell a story of the operation. Users are also allowed to construct a virtual optimal mine layout by dragging and dropping 2D/3D representations of major mine features such as buildings, waste dumps, dams and processing plants.

2009 & 2014

3D VR & 360o VR

AVIE_1

Spontaneous Combustion

This module contains a 3D representation of a longwall mine. There are five scenarios contained within this module. Each requires a methane gas reading at various stoppings around the mine. The reading values are used to infer the position and cause spontaneous combustion.

2009

3D VR

AVIE_1

Working at Heights

An interactive experience developed in partnership with BHP for a user to follow a virtual work team conducting a variety of working at heights related tasks and answer questions correctly to ensure they work safe, from PPE to actions.

2009

3D VR

AVIE_1

Rib and Roof Stability

Contains a 3D representation of a two heading section of coal mine in which 11 rib and roof-related hazards are present. Users navigate the mine and select areas which are deemed as hazardous, answering questions to fix the hazard.

2007

3D VR

AVIE_1

Truck Pre-Shift Inspection

An interactive exercise where a user goes through the pre-start checklist of a haul truck and walks around the truck checking each component with their conditions, either good or bad being randomly allocated.

2007

3D VR

AVIE_1, Gear VR

Unaided Self-Escape

Contains a 3D representation of a longwall mine and transport roadways. The module starts on the longwall, and there is an emergency situation (a belt fire) where the users must evacuate with a team of miners. Users are presented with decision points along the way and learn to work as a team.

2007

3D VR

AVIE_1

 

Platform Key

AVIE_1

A 360o VR theatre environment powered by a server of 6 computers

AVIE_2

A 360o VR theatre environment powered by a single computer

iPad

Either an Apple or Android Mobile device

Gear VR

A Samsung Gear VR headset powered by a Samsung phone

Oculus Rift

An Oculus Rift VR headset and hand controllers powered by a VR-ready (gaming) computer

Oculus Go

An Oculus Go all-in-one VR headset with a hand controller

SeePilot

Ability to view 360o content on Mobile devices, Oculus Go and Gear VR headsets and via a web viewing platform

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