Virtual Environments at a Geographical Scale, in either a Rural or an Urban
To understand the word Virtual Environments, we have to go through the term Virtual Reality (VR). The term ‘VR’ means a computer simulated environments which can simulate the physical presence in places in the real world and also in the imaginary world. Most of the current virtual reality environments are firstly the visual experiences which are either displayed on the screen or through special additional sound effects. Now-a-days, these virtual environments are being employed in many areas such as gaming, computer science, geography etc. A good example in the context of geography is Virtual Globe. This is a 3D software model or just to say a representation of the Earth or another world. It provides the user, an ability to freely move around in the virtual environment. The viewing angle and position can be changed and provides a real virtual world. Different geographical features such as roads, buildings, and also demographic quantities such as population can also be viewed in a very real virtual environment. On 20th of November, 1997, Microsoft released a very popular virtual globe in name of Encarta virtual Globe 98, which was followed by Cosmi’s 3D World Atlas in the year 1999. But the first publicized online virtual globes were NASA World Wind (mid-2004) and Google Earth (mid-2005). The application of the virtual environments, in the context of the geographical visualisation which is likely geovisualisation had many challenges that are involves in that. Working on this aspect, over the past decade had many successful results. Visualisation in scientific computing (ViSC) is one of the successful implementations in this area particularly. To be more successful in the visual presentation, one should take the fullest advantage regarding the cognitive systems developed for interacting with the real world. However the use of the virtual environments in the visualisation includes many challenges and poses many questions regarding these either in a rural or an urban landscape. The special challenges in this are mainly with the kinds of information depicted, methods which are developed on this information over decades on depicting that particular information and then for what that information is applied was the problem. The virtual environments can be analysed by considering many aspects into consideration. The main thing is that “what may be meant by an environment”. Then comes “What is meant by the process of virtualization” and next is that “Some aspects of the human performances that constrain the environmental design”. These are aspects involved in analysing the VE’s. Any experiment that is likely to be conducted in the virtual environment comes very closer to the issue in the real environment. In Conroy, 2001 it was stated that the previous research investigating topological perception and the way finding in the virtual and real patterns has shown the movement patterns in real and virtual environments are very much alike. In the experiment conducted regarding the distance calculation through a virtual environment, by taking six urban areas in to consideration, there are many key points that were observed at the end of the experiment analysis. The one with more heights are more confusing, windows and doors doesn’t make any big difference, too much detail etc were the comments received after the experiment. In this experiment, in order to investigate the perceptive of the scale, the virtual urban environment’s were explored and navigated to observe this particular issue. Now, we will consider steamboat Chronicles, which is a game that represents a virtual environment. This is being discussed here because this also interestingly displays some similar characteristics to the urban landscapes. In this game, the player is likely to identify and discover the place by crossing the obstacles and boundaries same as in real life. It is necessary in this game to stop at stop-signs, respecting the speed limits etc and which is similar to the facets of the urban structures that we generally experience in our own real urban landscapes. And now this leads a viewer to consider this system in our own real urban landscapes, which helps in improving the transportation facilities, helping the law enforcement agencies etc. The innovation in the transportation technology can be observed in this particular game. This is how, the virtual environments brings up the issues and will become as grounds for some new technological innovations. A great change in one system can reflect a change that is made in another system and finally that would reflect on the total system. This is a rapidly changing world with a rapidly increasing technology. Now-a-days, the computer power and graphical display capabilities are tremendously increased. This is why the virtual environments have now proven to be more and more powerful medium for visualising. The visualisation of the spatial information and sharing these experiences regarding a common virtual study with other people is done through this medium. The combination of the virtual environments and the decision making practices for a good understanding of the real environments and its related dynamic natural processes. By this, these provide us a good opportunity for a greater involvement in the community decision making. When we consider a particular case study area “Tool bin catchment in Western Australia”, a Live Link provides a network link between some game engine and a GIS. By this action, it helps communities envision landscape changes and in evaluating the decisions made in association with the selected scenarios. Augmented reality usually refers to the technology that is being integrated with the human sensory input or output. There are many good examples for the virtual environments and their capability in the context of rural or urban landscapes. Mostly, when we consider some popular games such as final fantasy VII, Farmville etc they present themselves as best examples for the virtual environments and we all know how addicting those games are. We will be in a different environment which provides reality with non-reality. To conclude, the virtual environments provides best ways in visualisation as a good medium for communicating as well as several other purposes in the context of geography.