Advancing Forest Monitoring and Assessment Through Immersive Virtual Reality
Keywords: immersive media, environmental data visualization, LiDAR, workflow, user evaluation
Abstract. The recent influx of remote and proximal sensing data provides new opportunities to understand environmental processes. A potential application of these datasets is to facilitate forestry operations. However, forest management decision-making through sensing techniques faces many challenges, partly due to the involvement of stakeholders with different knowledge levels and objectives. We present a virtual reality application developed for forest monitoring and assessment to address some of these challenges. First, a workflow for visualizing different sources of environmental sensing data is introduced to reconstruct digitally forest and terrain characteristics. Then, the VR experience is introduced in which users can observe, manipulate, and measure LiDAR-derived forest and tree models in immersive virtual environments. Finally, a heuristic expert evaluation to assess the overall user experience and the usability of individual application features is reported. We also gathered open-ended responses from domain experts to reflect on the potential and actual uses of the application in forest-related practices.