Virtual reality geoethics

Virtual reality geoethics

Aug 23rd, 2017

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are susceptible to generate significant benefits, but also come with a full bag of Virtual reality geoethics issues.

Let’s discuss some of the Virtual reality geoethics issues we have spotted in the media and at various conferences.

Where do we stand, where are we heading with VR and AR?

VR total immersion is what everyone making a VR headset, game or app is aiming towards – making the virtual reality experience so real that we forget the computer, headgear and accessories and act exactly as we would in the real world. Designers can use headphones to increase the sense of immersion. Next stop is The Matrix!

AR seems way less immersive so far as one never actually loses touch with the reality “beyond the lens”.

Microsoft and Mojang have reportedly continued working together on a version of Minecraft that will use Microsoft’s HoloLens virtual reality headset to cast the user into an immersive game environment. Blending the virtual 3D content with the physical world allows users to view, control, and interact with the content using their hands and voice. The future of mixed reality looks to be just as bright in the hands of teenagers as with professionals in the office.

What impact could the HoloLens technology have on the mining industry and on those involved in providing innovative solutions to its challenges?

Properjohn recently stated it was “clear to see that the ability to mix virtual content with reality will provide countless opportunities to improve operational safety and efficiency as well as bringing the corporate offices even closer to the operations on the ground by connecting people in ways never imagined before”.

Virtual reality geoethics

I recently had a full immersion VR demo. I was in the middle of an environmental rehabilitation/closure project for a large pit.

The landscaping was beautiful, perfectly grown fractal vegetation, fresh blue water in the pond, a little breeze, no smells of any kind (we are not there yet).  The sun was shining. There was  a marvelous path, dry and not dusty to “walk around” and little birds tweeting all around me.

I was ready to buy a piece of land and retire there!

Then the guys giving the demo told me that this was a wonderful tool to explain the project to the public and regulators. Apparently they all loved it, and this was, of course, the way of the future.

No surprise, I was literally flabbergasted! The VR experience is so immersive and wonderful that one actually BELIEVES that synthetic environment is true, real! I immediately remembered that decades ago wise regulators knew the tricks posed by beautiful perspectives drafted by hand, then beautiful computer renderings. Thus, in many instances they demanded architects and promoters to deliver physical scale models of their projects in unpainted wood. That was the cure to avoid the trap of  “fake future reality”. With VR the luring effect is immediate and strong as our human brain tends to believe what we see….

If you thought that politicians are “always lying”, come out with outrageous electoral promises, well, you should not gobble down that VR stuff. However, if you let your guard down even for a minute, I bet you will anyways!

Some rules may be needed!

That’s where Virtual reality geoethics kicks in.

For instance, Geoethics should forbid a professional (of any kind) to depict only the unlikely final stage of a project.

Geoethics should forbid a professional (of any kind) to only depict a “perfect world”.  Hazards and risks should not  lurk behind little birdies tweeting. Perhaps a geoethical behavior would encompass adding to the VR representation stressful event. For example, add heavy rain, earthquakes, or forest fire, especially for long lasting infrastructure projects .

Thus VR should depict unbiased risk information and reasonable outcomes, not an ideal risk-free world.

Those who do not respect ethics and propose “Rosy Scenario Alternate Reality” will expose themselves to legal liabilities. The basis will likely be blatant misrepresentation.

Where are VR and AR useful in mining?

Visualization, instruction, awareness building, skills development and information are areas where we can see VR and AR as extremely useful. That would be of course in above and underground mining.

In risk management, we can see an ORE centralized dashboard allowing all parties to visualize their risks.

Properjohn described new opportunities for geo-engineers to ground-truth their models and plans as if they were on the spot.

In particular in the area of information transfer we can see VR and AR as a mitigation to the baby boomer retirement crisis.


As mentioned above ORE dashboards and VR/AR offer significant synergistic opportunities.

Call us to explore the benefits we could bring to your projects and operations.

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Category: Risk analysis, Risk management

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