Vale is a global company headquartered in Brazil, but
operating in 38 countries. Vale produces iron ore, pellets, nickel, fertilizers, copper, coal, cobalt, manganese and ferroalloys, as well as platinum group metals and precious metals. Any mineral extraction process involves copious amounts of geological research and geoscientists around the world have been increasingly following BGS’s trailblazing lead in using GeoVisionary to aid the visualisation of their complex data. Henry Galbiatti, Vale’s general manager for iron ore exploration, closed mines and manganese planning, explained: “From our offices in Belo Horizonte, we constantly have new projects in the pipeline. So, naturally, long term planning is crucial if we are to successfully bring our plans to fruition. The nature of our business is such that visualisation is vital. Prior to our discovery of GeoVisionary, we used a GIS platform across our projects and while we had a small level of 3D capability, we weren’t able to understand fully and interact with our data. When I visited the British Geological Survey’s (BGS) ActiveWall and also Northampton University’s ActiveCube, I saw at once that GeoVisionary running in a Virtual Reality (VR) environment was exactly what we were looking for.”
GeoVisionary was developed by Virtalis, in collaboration with BGS, as specialist software for the high-resolution visualisation of elevation and photography data overlaid with a wide range of geospatial data. The initial design goal was to ensure that data sets for large regions, national to sub-continental, could be loaded simultaneously and at full resolution, while allowing real-time interaction with the data. One of the major advantages GeoVisionary offers over other visualisation software (3 & 4D GIS) is its ability to integrate very large volumes of data from multiple sources, allowing a greater understanding of diverse spatial datasets.
The Virtalis ActiveWall is an installed, immersive, interactive 3D visualisation system. Vale’s ActiveWall draws on active stereo technology and features a custom rear-projection screen, specialist computer, Virtalis custom software and a powerful projector (Fig. 1). Movements within the ActiveWall environment are tracked using a tracking system. This added functionality alters the perspective of the visuals according to the user’s position and orientation within the scene to give a natural and accurate sense of relationship and scale. The hand held controller allows the immersive experience to be enhanced further. The user can navigate through the virtual world, pick and manipulate component parts in real-time and make decisions on the fly.
Vale’s ActiveWall is situated inside a dedicated room within the Long Term Planning Department (DIPF) (Fig. 2). Vale has also invested in a portable ActiveMove system and a multi-screen desktop VR system. As Vale’s staff becomes more experienced in GeoVisionary, they are providing Virtalis with valuable feedback for the creation of a specific mining module, as well and deciding what unique further tailoring is required for Vale. The Company is using GeoVisionary not just for exploration and mine management, but also as an environment for staff training.