Virtual reality (VR) was once considered something out of a science-fiction film, but it has now become a part of actuality. Applications in health, science, entertainment and design have all tried to capitalise on the commercial applications of this growing technology. The ability to completely immerse yourself into different environment creates an extensive experience like no other.

This growing trend has led me to wonder if it would be possible to use the extensive applications of GIS with the complex immersion of virtual reality. So with this, I have tried to take the application of GIS into VR for my 2016 SA8905 geo visualisation assignment.

This blog post will explain the steps I have taken from transforming an idea into (virtual) reality.

For this project, I have decided to take a subsection of the underground PATH system in Toronto and display it with the allocated buildings that it runs through. Multiple criticisms have been made about the PATH system, most famously is the difficulty of navigation when within. So by displaying this information in VR I hope to ease the navigation issues of individuals travelling within the PATH system.

The data utilised were as follows:
1.Toronto Open Data building massings (http://tinyurl.com/moehjnl)
2.Path Extract from Open Street Maps (https://www.openstreetmap.org)
3.Google Raster Base maps (www.maps.google.ca)

The hardware utilised were as follows:
1. Samsung Galaxy Note 4
2. Laptop Computer
3. Oasis 360 VR Viewer

1. The two layers were added into QGIS this is where allocated colour schemes were defined and the base map was determined.

2. To view an object within VR it must be in 3D, the program utilised to take this current 2D map and transform it into 3D was a python plugin named Qgis2threejs (http://tinyurl.com/QGIS3). This plugin allowed me to add extrusion values to the PATH layer and also display the Buildings with the allocated heights associated.

3. Once the layer was finalised the Qgis2Threejs allowed me to export my created map into a COLLADA file. This brought me one step closer to bringing the data into VR.

Please take the time to view the pre VR map in your web browser by following these instructions.

3a) Please follow this link provided:

3b) Click the download button in the top right corner of the screen, next a prompt will open please select  No Thanks, Continue to download.

3c) Once the ZIP folder has completed downloading , open the GeoViz_filesFinal.html file only. This file must also be in the same location of the files in the extracted folder. This step will allow the user to view the map and data on a web page. Layers in this format may be toggled on and off and the attribute information is available on selected map items.

The COLLADA files that were extracted from Qgis2Threejs must be opened into Google Sketchup (http://www.sketchup.com/) to format a georeferenced environment where the layers can be displayed.

4. This is done by importing a georeferenced base map by selecting File and Add a Location. This process exports base map images from Google Earth into the Sketchup environment.

An example of this process can be seen here:

5. Once the base map coverage was adequate, it was time to add the imported COLLADA files from Qgis2Threejs this was done by selecting:

File then Import and selecting the desired files associated with the extracts.

6. The COLLADA files were then positioned into the correct locations, this completed the processes used create the 3D model and it is now ready to enter into the realm of virtual reality.

7. The SketchUp model was exported and saved as a Sketchup Model.

8. Finally, the implementation of  VR was used by a program called qrVR
(https://qrvr.io/) This program displays the SketchUp model in a format that is compatible with the Oasis 360 VR viewer.

9. Using the qrVR uploader on a desktop/laptop computer, upload the Sketchup Model to the qrVR servers.

10. The next step was to download the qrVR application upon a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and find the uploaded model via QR code.

11. Finally start the qrVR application and slide the phone into the display device.

Below is a video and image of the final product:

This is a video example of what the user would be looking at once the headset is on:
This is an example of the headset in the virtual reality environment:



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