Research

Data Generated Virtual Ecological Models for Virtual Environments in Game Engines, (2003-Present):

Technical and Research Design Matters: Technical Contribution of The Virtual Trillium Trail as Data Generated Virtual Ecologies for Virtual Learning Environments and as a Planned Orthogonal Contrast Statistical Framework: Documented how to build data visualization of ecological information (terrain data, satellite images, plant population data, and land gathered data), in real-time, 3D graphical, interactive platforms, such as high fidelity, photorealistic game engines; and the importance of software systems design choices as they will impact statistical tests and thus conclusions.

In addition, Professor Susan Kalisz, Department of Biological Sciences, at the University of Pittsburgh, and senior research associate Jessica Dunn, collaborated and provided the plant population data sets required to build the visualization of the park. The Virtual Trillium Trail is a unique data simulation and visualization of Dr. Kalisz’s long-term NSF biological plot study data, unlike any other virtual world for education.

The main empirical contribution produced by the interaction of the system design (POC 2x2 ANOVA research design) was to isolate the factors of Visual Fidelity and Navigational Freedom, and measure the impacts on output variables, Knowledge Gained (i.e. the difference between pre and post tests) and Salient Events (i.e. count the number of times there is a change in learning behavior from exploration-mode to inquiry-mode).

Future research will build on the technical and theoretical framework to represent different kinds of simulations. Simulations represent different scenarios of future realities based on decision support systems and social-environmental analysis. The capability to see the results of different parameters in photorealistic models of the future will be a very powerful decision support tool. Unlike the more abstract visualizations, these types of visualizations will empower research scientists, students, and policy makers to understand the environmental impacts of economic choices. Public outreach is an important part of this research and envisioned to be a critical component of this work.

Terrain generation and plant population visualization from data:

Virtual Trillium Trail Terrain and plant popluation visualization from data HarringtonVirtual Trillium Trail Terrain and plant popluation visualization from data HarringtonVirtual Trillium Trail Terrain and plant popluation visualization from data Harrington

Figure 1. Composite image showing the first prototype, one square mile, of plants, and automatic terrain generation, 2003-2005.

3D Plant Models -- Photorealistic and High Fidelity:

Virtual Trillium Trail Terrain and plant popluation visualization from data 3d plant models photo realistic and high fidelity HarringtonFigure 2. First image is a photorealistic 3D model of a Large Flowered Bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora); second image is a photograph of the real flower; third image is a photograph of a Jack in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum); fourth image is a photorealistic 3D model of a Jack in the Pulpit, 2007.

Virtual Trillium Trail Terrain and plant popluation visualization from data Harrington Trillium real and virtual 3d plant modelFigure 3. Left image is a photograph of a real Red Trillium (Trillium erectum), and the right image is a 3D model, 2007.

Virtual Trillium Trail Terrain and plant popluation visualization from data Harrington 3d Computer model of a TrilliumFigure 4. Image of a 3D computer model of a Red Trillium, demonstrating the level of detail in the editor, showing all structural elements of the flower, 2007

The Virtual Trillium Trail computer game, 2009 Harrington

Figure 5. One of the avatars, a deer, available in the software, The Virtual Trillium Trail, 2009.

The Virtual Trillium Trail computer game, 2009 Harrington

Figure 6. A close-up of flowers (Red Trillium -- Trillium erectum and Miterwort--Mitella diphylla), in the software, The Virtual Trillium Trail , demonstrating the density of plants in the model, 2009.

The Virtual Trillium Trail computer game, 2009 Harrington Fact Cards

Figure 7. Demonstration of the "Fact Cards" in the software, The Virtual Trillium Trail, 2009.

The Virtual Trillium Trail computer game, 2009 Harrington

Figure 8. The Virtual Trillium Trail, deer avatar runs through a stream, 2009.

The Virtual Trillium Trail computer game, 2009 Harrington

Figure 9. The Virtual Trillium Trail, image of the pond that is available, 2009.

The Virtual Trillium Trail computer game, 2009 Harrington

Figure 10: The Virtual Trillium Trail, images of plants in a fresh water marsh, iris, wild ginger, ferns, and buttercups, 2009.


The Wild Point, (2006-2012). (PDF)

The Wild Point, a simulation of the Pittsburgh point, a five squire mile, high fidelity, photo realistic, interactive, virtual environment, 2006-2012.

Figure 11. The Wild Point, a simulation of the Pittsburgh point, a five square mile, high fidelity, photorealistic, interactive, virtual environment, 2006-2012.

The Wild Point is a virtual reality art and educational simulation of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, based on the historical Elias Meyer 1762 map and terrain data from Google Earth. Created to be an interactive immersive virtual environment for both historical educational outreach and as well as a work of art. It is a visualization of pre-European America, and open to imaginative re-interpretation of the region. Valleys and floodplains are free of manmade structures, thus in it, it invites the viewer to wonder about past and future realities of the region.

Resulting Presentations:

  • Harrington, M.C.R. (2007). Generating high fidelity, 3D computer graphic models from transects and plot population data for Trillium Trail. University of Pittsburgh, Department of
  • Biological Sciences: E&E Seminar. October 24, 2007. Pittsburgh, PA. Harrington, M.C.R. (2008). Simulated Ecological Environments for Education: Past and future realities. November 7, 2008.
  • Chatham University, Pittsburgh, PA. Harrington, M.C.R. (2008).
  • Tips and tricks of building Simulated Ecological Environments for Education: User centered design, activity analysis, prototyping, and techniques. Carnegie Mellon Entertainment Technology Center. October 15, 2008. CMU, Pittsburgh, PA.