The impact of screen-based VR environments on spatial thinking skills

Jacqueline Houghton, Clare Gordon and Graham McLeod, Earth and Environment

This project – Investigating the impact of screen-based virtual reality environments on students’ spatial thinking skills, builds on the existing, successful Virtual Landscapes project that develops screen-based virtual reality environments to enhance the training students receive in preparation for geological mapping fieldwork and to help them develop 3D visualisation skills.

A geological map expresses the 3D relationship between the rocks and the landscape in a 2D form.  To map, understand and interpret the outcrop patterns of the rocks on a geological map it is necessary to be able to visualize the 2D map in 3D.

Our interactive 3D geological map block models demonstrate the 3D interaction of the geology with the landscape and the outcrop patterns produced.  These block models can be enlarged, rotated, walked and flown around.  Our mapping training worlds are virtual landscapes, with rock outcrops, which can be mapped in a similar way to real world examples.

Our project aims to develop new and improved mapping training worlds, based on feedback from students on the current worlds, to develop further the geological map 3D block models, and to investigate how to test the impact of these on students’ mapping and spatial thinking skills.

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