VR launches forestry into the future

Friday 18 Oct 2019

 
Fascinating new projects are seeking to bring the seemingly opposing worlds of Virtual Reality (VR) and forestry together, as outlined in the latest episode of the Forest and Wood Products Australia’s (FWPA) WoodChat podcast series.

Listeners will hear about an initiative demonstrating how field operators can accurately perform assessments in an immersive, VR environment, with benefits ranging from improved safety, to ease of access and reduced labour costs. As part of an FWPA-supported research project, a team at the University of Tasmania has used data acquired by helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to investigate the potential of VR to replace current forest inventory fieldwork approaches.

Lead researcher Dr Winyu Chinthammit, of the University of Tasmania’s College of Sciences and Engineering, said the project was prompted by the fact forests are becoming more difficult to evaluate manually, due to increasing safety concerns and access problems. “We were looking to work with people who didn’t have any experience of VR, but who would traditionally go into forests to assess trees, in order to test how people who already have skills in forestry might perform inside a VR environment,” Dr Chinthammit said.

“This project provided evidence that a field crew can indeed operate inside a VR environment and perform some of the same basic tasks they would normally complete as part of their everyday operations on the ground.” Details relating to operational implementation and trials using VR for forest inventory are also being covered as part of the upcoming ForestTECH 2019 series that runs in both Australia and New Zealand in four weeks. Full details on the programme can be viewed here.

In addition, the WoodChat hosts learn about a series of recently launched VR tours for teachers and school children, which could completely change the way young people learn about Australian forests. Teachers from across the country were given the opportunity to experience and learn about innovative VR teaching resources developed by ForestLearning, a program of FWPA.

The ForestVR™ toolkit for schools will educate students on the renewable cycle of forestry and wood in an immersive and engaging way, while overcoming the problems around the inaccessibility and safety of visiting physical forests and manufacturing plants. Beth Welden, ForestLearning Program Manager, said these virtual tours have been designed specifically for school students, to tell the renewable “seed-to-shelter” pine story and the “forest-to-fine-flooring” Spotted Gum story in a fully immersive way.

“This is a novel way of engaging students, allowing them to visit places they wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to access as a school field trip. We hope to provide meaningful educational experiences, aligned to the Australian Curriculum, that truly engage students on sustainable and renewable forest and wood products,” Welden said.

“We are wanting today’s young people to grow up with an appreciation of the sustainable and renewable nature of our forests. As the decision makers, voters and consumers of the future, it is important that today’s school children have an affiliation with wood and are fully aware of the benefits,” Welden said.

This episode is part of the second series of the WoodChat podcast, following topics including initiatives to engage the future leaders of the industry, how Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) tracking is being used to improve the on-site processes associated with prefabricated timber, and how 3D printing can turn timber waste into high performance construction materials.

WoodChat represents FWPA’s commitment to engaging new ways of communicating industry news and innovations. Each episode includes in-depth conversations with experts on recent discoveries, innovations and initiatives. You can listen to WoodChat on SoundCloud and iTunes.

Source: FWPA



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