A team of Geographers have inserted real landscapes into virtual games, giving the opportunity to young people to evaluate them.
The concept originated in a large project conducted in Wales, UK. The project involves the assessment of the Glastir endeavor which is practically an effort aiming to introduce sustainable land management, launched in 2012. The $7.74 million program is handled by the Welsh Government and the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH).
In order to evaluate the impact of landscapes, scientists requested feedback from the public. They conducted a photographic survey after mapping 300 sites in Wales with more than 2000 participants.
A problem that arose was the reduced representation of young people (25 years old or less) in the evaluation. To address the issue, Ruth Swetnam, Professor of Applied Geography at Staffordshire University and Jan Korenko, Senior Lecturer in Visual Effects at Staffordshire University decided to insert those mapped landscapes in computer gaming. In particular, they created fly-through animations inspired by Wales's rural landscapes. “To address the gap, we stepped out of the real-world landscapes that most geographers are comfortable with, into the virtual landscapes of gaming. The aim was to represent the reality of typical landscape vistas and we designed an amalgam of different sites in Wales which allowed us to easily add or remove different features such as sheep or woodland,” Prof. Swetnam, stated.
The results of the survey showed that the majority of the participants (more than 70%) were content with the virtual visualization of the territories. Moreover, 64% of those who had actually visited the sites, rated with at least 7/10 the virtual landscapes for their representative modeling.
Prof. Swetnam was satisfied with the survey's outcome and mostly with the realistic models that captured the real landscape. She emphasized the fact that the differences in the two groups of people examined were minor, suggesting that virtual reality is an efficient manner of involving young people in similar surveys. She concluded that monitoring and assessing landscapes is essential as they are currently swiftly changing due to climate change.
“Perhaps we, as geographers and planners need to explore these virtual worlds to engage with our youth in a landscape setting they are comfortable navigating. Key to success is an interdisciplinary approach, combining the technical flair of the visual effects experts with the geographical grounding provided by the landscape scientist,” Prof. Swetnam, said.
Click the video below to watch the Visualization of the Welsh Countryside