NCGIS 2017

Immersive Tangible Landscape

Payam Tabrizian, Anna Petrasova, Brendan Harmon, Vaclav Petras, Helena Mitasova
North Carolina State University

The talk is presented by the GeoForAll Laboratory at the Center for Geospatial Analytics (CGA), North Carolina State University

CGA is an interdisciplinary research and education center with focus on geospatial computing, modeling, analytics and geovisualization.

Tangible Landscape
Immersive Virtual Environment (IVE)

Motivation for Tangible Interfaces for GIS

  • Interaction through mouse, keyboard and display does not encourage creativity.
  • Manipulating computer models is not intuitive and requires specialized software and training.
  • Collaboration is restricted as typically only one user at a time can navigate and modify models.

Tangible interface linked with GIS

Tangible Geospatial Modeling System (TanGeoMS)

L. Tateosian, H. Mitasova, B. A. Harmon, B. Fogleman, K. Weaver, and R. S. Harmon, “TanGeoMS: tangible geospatial modeling system.,” IEEE Trans. Vis. Comput. Graph., vol. 16, no. 6, pp. 1605–12, 2010.

Kinect-based systems

Augmented Reality Sandbox by KeckCAVES

Expensive laser scanners replaced by low cost Kinect

Image source:

Tangible Landscape: real-time coupling with GIS

With Tangible Landscape you can hold a GIS in your hands - feeling the shape of the earth, sculpting its topography, and directing the flow of water.

How it works

Tangible Landscape couples a digital and a physical model through a continuous cycle of 3D scanning, geospatial modeling, and projection



surface points lines areas areas

Applications: visibility

Visibility analysis

Applications: urban growth

Simulation of urban growth scenarios with FUTURES model

Serious games: coastal flooding

Save houses from coastal flooding by building coastal defenses

Structured problem-solving with rules, challenging objectives, and scoring

Coupling Tangible Landscape with IVE

  • Better communicating the implications of landscape change
  • Including design attributes in landscape planning process
  • Assessing trade-offs between ecological and experiential quality (e.g., preferences, pyschological well-being)

Immersive Virtual Environments (IVE)

  • Immersive Virtual Environements surround the user in images, video or other stimuli to generate a perception of being physically present in a non-physical world.
  • High degree of "presence", more robust asessement of human perception and preferences

The coupling rationale

  • Real-time updating a georeferenced 3D model of the landscape based on user interaction with Tangible Landscape
  • Updating the attributes (shape, position) of 3D objects (e.g., plants) and surfaces (e.g., terrain) with their corresponding tangible objects
  • Enabling user to control the viewpoints (camera position) and animation (e.g., walkthrough, flythrough)

Physical setup

What is Blender? Why Blender?

  • Free and open source 3d modelling and game engine software
  • Easy scripting (Python)
  • GIS and Virtual reality plugin
  • High-quality real-time rendering and shading

Software Architecture

Interaction: hand

3D processing: terrain GeoTIFF raster and water polygon

Simulation: simple hydrologic model

Interaction: laser pointer

3D processing: importing line feature to update camera position

Interaction: laser pointer

3D processing: importing polygon features to populate trees

Experiencing the landscape through IVE

Interaction: laser pointer

Future work

  • Landscape planting design
  • Habitat connectivity and landscape preferences in woodland patches

Open source

Tangible Landscape plugin for GRASS GIS

GRASS GIS module for importing data from Kinect v2

Tangible Landscape repository on Open Science Framework

System cost

TypeProduct exampleCost
SoftwareTangible Landscape plugin for GRASS GIS$0
ComputerSystem76 Oryx Pro$1500
ComputerVR ready PC or laptop $1500
ProjectorOptoma ML750 WXGA LED$500
3D sensorXbox One Kinect$100
Kinect Adapter for Windows$50
Stand2 x Avenger 40-Inch C-Stand with Grip Kit$400
2 x Avenger 3-Inch Baby Wall Plate$20
PeripheralsHDMI cable, extension cord$20
Modeling mediaWaba Fun Kinetic Sand 11 Lbs$50
IVE headsetOculus DK2 or CV1 $600