13B.2 Virtual World, Real Understanding: Using Virtual Reality to Visualize Flooding Impacts in Cities

Thursday, 10 January 2019: 12:00 AM
North 122BC (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Shayna Skolnik, NASA, Greenbelt, MD

Navteca, along with the NASA Applied Sciences Disaster Applications Group, within the Earth Science Division of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, and the NASA Information Technology Communications Directorate (ITCD) has been researching virtual reality (VR) technology for the next generation of Earth science technology information systems. The primary objective of this project has been to investigate the use of VR for scientific data visualization as it relates to data used for climate and disasters. Through an interface to a three dimensional virtual city model, the end user is able to order and view data from relevant NASA and NOAA data sets in an immersive, interactive VR environment. The custom-developed VR interface, a 3D model of San Juan, Puerto Rico displays an interactive water level tool to demonstrate the severe flooding after Hurricane Maria and simulated flooding for different category hurricanes. This immersive visualization provides a different perspective from traditional 2D displays and allows users to experience simulated flooding virtually. Additional work investigates the area around Hampton, Virginia near NASA Langley Research Center and combines simulated inundation with land subsidence data and 3D buildings and infrastructure to better visualize dynamic flooding threats in that region. By focusing on disaster scenarios, this research is investigating whether VR technology can help develop enhanced tools that can inform data-driven decisions. This type of VR visualization might benefit people in coastal cities, like Miami and New Orleans, to understand flood threats and be better prepared for future events. VR also effectively shows the fourth dimension, time, more fluidly, showing how an area looked before an event, what it looked like during, and what changes occurred because of the disaster, enabling end users from disparate backgrounds to collaborate and understand geospatial and Earth observational data in new ways. By demonstrating the utility of VR to present interactive projected flood measurements, the investigation team has shown the potential for VR as a science tool beyond simple visualization and a way for cities to envision and prepare for future disaster events.
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