The project involved digitally mapping 300 sites across Wales and sought feedback from the public on the visual quality of the landscapes. More than two thousand responses were collected using a photographic survey. However, participants aged 25 and under were significantly underrepresented in the self-selecting sample. In a bid to engage younger audiences Ruth teamed up with Jan Korenko, Senior Lecturer in Visual Effects at Staffordshire University, to create a series of videos depicting dynamic fly-throughs of virtual landscapes inspired by the Welsh countryside.
Ruth said: "To address the gap, we stepped out of the real-world landscapes that most geographers are comfortable with, into the virtual landscapes of gaming.
iGlasses. While today Apple is infamous for their use of “i” in their products, they weren’t the first ones to come up with the idea. In the 1990s, a company known as Virtual I/O came up with a headset that was capable of color 3D stereoscopic vision, as well as head tracking. Known as iGlasses, the device had a price tag of just under $1000. While the glasses were fully capable of delivering an immersive experience, they didn’t truly ignite the consumer market.
"The aim was to represent the reality of typical landscape vistas and we designed an amalgam of different sites in Wales which allowed us to easily add or remove different features such as sheep or woodland."
A second survey incorporating these virtual landscapes was first targeted at computer games design students and then secondly to the wider public, with both groups taking the same assessment.
Yann LeCun, a professor at New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences , has been awarded the ACM A.M. Turing Award for his breakthroughs in artificial intelligence and, specifically, deep learning and convolutional neural networks—the foundation of modern computer vision, speech recognition, speech synthesis, image synthesis, and natural language processing.
Overall more than 70% of respondents were highly satisfied with the quality of the landscape visualisations. Of those who had visited rural Wales before, 64% gave a rating of at least 7 out of 10 for its representativeness.
Ruth commented: "The response was really positive, especially feedback about how realistic the virtual landscapes were. There were no significant differences in overall ratings between the two groups which indicates that being familiar with gaming would not preclude the use of similar landscape visualisations in public consultation exercises."
All Generations Love It. While some critics view virtual reality as something only young people like, it turns out that even previous generations largely approve of the technology. Currently, millennials are the generation most likely to embrace virtual reality, but apparently older generations are also getting on the bandwagon. One study found that a majority of baby boomers have a favorable perspective of virtual reality. A big reason behind the popularity is the versatility of many virtual reality systems.
"Perhaps we, as geographers and planners, need to explore these virtual worlds to engage with our youth in a landscape setting they are comfortable navigating. Key to success is an interdisciplinary approach, combining the technical flair of the visual effects experts with the geographical grounding provided by the landscape scientist."
She added: "With our rapidly changing climate, it is important to understand how our future landscapes will function and what they look like as this impacts on our wellbeing and culture. Young voices are essential to capture in this debate as they are the generation who will be living with these new landscape futures."