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The Forestry VR project aims to provide plantations with better information about quality, progress

Victorian Liberal MP Moira Deeming has avoided an eviction petition and will instead be suspended for nine months.
Plantation managers will soon be able to walk through vast tracts of woodland without defects, check the quality of lumber and see progress more quickly from the comfort of their office.
Researchers at the University of South Australia are trying to do just that by collecting as much plantation data as possible and moving it into virtual reality.
Spencer O’Keeffe, a doctoral student in interactive and virtual environments at the university who led the project, said it could be a big step forward for forest management.
“Things over the last 100 years have been based on the same process… but in the last few years, the use of remote sensing tools in industry has become more feasible.
“My work explores the use of immersive analysis tools such as virtual reality, augmented reality, and 3D environments to actually interact with virtual subsets of the forest and gain a deeper understanding of the inner workings.”
Ideally, the technology could run algorithms and highlight points of interest or potential problems for plantation managers, such as hidden defects or wood quality that are easy to miss when walking through the forest.
“You do it in a repeatable and adjustable way… it takes you back 20 years and you understand why the decision was made.”
When he started getting his degree in environmental science, he didn’t expect his interest in virtual reality to lead him to forestry.
“It was very, very obvious to me that you can do more science when you can look at things in three dimensions instead of two, and I wanted to be a part of that from the very beginning,” he said.
“The way trees grow means it’s essentially a 3D problem, and you can’t have a 2D image of a tree to accurately reproduce its structure.
“And we can actually put a miniature version of the tree on the table in front of you, and you can walk around and expand different features, and you can keep all that information.”
Just one year after Mr. O’Keeffe’s three-year project, the results are already exciting for the industry.
Michelle Balasso, manager of the OneFortyOne forest digital twin project, said she was impressed with what had been achieved.
“What Spencer was able to show us is that you can see these trees from the office and it’s incredible,” Dr. Barrasso said.
Currently, for plantation sampling, crews go into the field and manually record areas within a radius of 20 meters. Even experienced operators can take up to an hour to complete the process.
If Mr. O’Keeffe’s project could be expanded, a worker could simply walk across the same field with a backpack scanner and the job would be completed in 10 minutes.
Currently, the enterprise annually selects and registers 1% of the forest and extrapolates the results to the rest of the plantation.
This virtual reality technology allows students of all abilities to embark on an educational journey and consider a career in agriculture.
“It will also bring objectivity to the measurements by removing the subjectivity of operators who need to measure trees as well as estimate sizes.”
As the South Australian government launched a $15 million forestry center of excellence strategic plan this week, Dr Barrasso hopes this project is only the beginning of what can be achieved.
“Our goal is to bring more young people into the industry… it’s harder than it looks.”
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Post time: Mar-27-2023