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3D Rocks, 3D Outcrops, and Virtual Field Trips

Geoscience teaching has not kept up with technology. The ability to visualize objects in 3D is fundamental in geology, and yet we have hardly integrated any 3D tools in our courses, even though such tools have been available for years. Apart from occasional tests carried out by individuals, there has been no widespread effort to use the latest technology in the classroom and the field. Covid restrictions on travel thus simply accelerated a project we were already working on: the creation of a collection of 3D models of rocks and outcrops to be used as a training aid in the classroom. We expanded the original concept to include also a full 3D virtual environment for students to carry out field exercises.

We have created 3D models of hand samples from our rock collection, and 3D models of key outcrops at several field locations that we normally use in both Spain and Germany, using both hand held cameras and a small drone. Image processing to produce scaled and georeferenced models was done with Metashape Pro. We then used 3DVista Pro to produce immersive virtual field trips. This software allows linking our 3D models, which are stored on public platforms, with videos, photos, maps, text, and realistic sounds for each field scene. A training module in the form of quizzes and game-like features can be incorporated too. The reception from students has been positive, and we plan to keep using these tools extensively even after the covid crisis is over.


Sara Carena
Ludwig-Maximilians University, Germany
GeoKarlsruhe 2021