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New MR headgear assists in forest surveying

Scientists have recently relied on a Microsoft HoloLens headset as a mixed-reality sensor for outdoor plant monitoring, with the aid of the VegSense application.

Prototypical research conducted by Daniel Gorczynski, a graduate student at Rice University, and bioscientist Lydia Beaudrot, indicates that VegSense may serve as a more affordable alternative to conventional measured data.

The amalgamation of the software and hardware elements is being proved as proficient at some of the oldest trees in the forests. By evaluating these vegetation instances, the researchers can gain an idea about the general health of the forest. This was revealed in the research included in the Methods in Ecology and Evolution publication.

Gorczynski proposed utilising HoloLens, which is typically touted as a business efficiency tool for industry, education and medicare. He worked on developing the software part of the system. Based on his observations, whilst this combination is not as effective at lifting branches and saplings, more can be done in terms of development.

Gorczynski says he initially got an idea about the mixed reality (MR) sense capabilities, during his time as an undergraduate student at Vanderbilt University. He remarked that the two streams are a good match. Gorczynski had made the pitch for the development to Beaufort following him joining Rice a few years back.

By blending bespoke software solutions and existing hardware, the costs are comparatively lower than lidar-based systems that are generally utilised in 3D field studies, according to Gorczynski. VegSense was developed by him, based on a platform that is better suited for interactive offerings and 3D games, as opposed to scientific applications.

Based on the findings of some field tests conducted at Memorial Park in Houston, the surveying is better for trees that are considered to be mature. VegSense was successful in detecting as many as 48 trees out of a total of 50 mature ones within the boundaries of the target zone, which had a diameter of 30 feet, as the findings highlighted.

Gorczynski traversed the area, observing the trees and creating a 3D resource library. According to him, the team wanted to purposefully attempt to reproduce the measurements of conventional understory vegetations. He emphasised that they endeavoured to get all the possible details.

Upon surveying the area, the observer notices a grid pattern that is close to a holograph, to easily trace the plant surfaces. Talking about the mixed reality system, Gorczynski said that it helps to display plants that are detected and what has been missed by a person doing the scanning. He revealed that the key objective is to effectively scan the entire range of vegetation  Gorczynski explains.

Being impressed by the results of the scans, Gorczynski made a note of them for the research paper without any delay, according to Beaudrot. She also said that the mixed reality headgear further got the approval of Gorczynski, who had relied on it during a Tanzania field trip, for the purpose of a rainforest analysis drive.

The MR technology is being considered a promising asset for ecology research.

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