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Virtual Reality Used to Study Haiti, Baja Earthquakes

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LiDAR scan of Enriquillo fault in Haiti

LiDAR images combined with existing topographic maps and aerial photographs allow UC Davis researchers to "fly" over terrain to examine interesting features and highlight details that would otherwise be hard to see.

Credit: University of California, Davis

University of California, Davis (UCD) researchers are using the virtual reality equipment at the UCD Keck Center for Active Visualization in Earth Sciences to study earthquake damage and predict whether faults are likely to move again in the near future. The project could be a preview of future disaster response, when real-time three-dimensional (3-D) imaging can help emergency planners and scientists.

The Keck Center uses light detection and ranging (LiDAR) imaging to produce much of the earthquake data. LiDAR scans the ground with pulses of laser light to create an accurate, 3D representation of the Earth's surface. The LiDAR images are combined with aerial photographs using software called Custra, which enables researchers to "fly" over the terrain and examine details that would otherwise be hard to see. The UCD facility is equipped with projection screens on three walls that create an immersive, interactive environment.

View a video of a LiDAR viewer fly-through of the Enriquillo fault in Haiti.

Researchers say the data could lead to a better understanding of the Enriquillo fault, which caused the quake in Haiti on Jan. 12. "We're learning how complex the process is, and how much data there will be when this happens in California," says UCD professor Louise Kellogg.

From University of California, Davis
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