The 3D visualization tool PRo3D becomes open-source
For a decade now, the Viennese research center VRVis Center for Virtual Reality and Visualization has been developing the Planetary Robotics 3D Viewer, PRo3D for short, together with renowned and international research partners such as Joanneum Research and the Imperial College of London. PRo3D is a digital tool that, for the first time, enables planetary geologists to work with high-resolution 3D reconstructions of the surface of Mars. "The unique selling point of PRo3D is that the viewer can handle particularly large data," says Thomas Ortner, project manager at VRVis. "Two further special features are the possibility to make annotations directly in the reconstructions and to switch between the high-resolution surface data easily."
VRVis technology used on ESA and NASA missions
Space Technology made in Austria is "on board" of the next two Mars missions - the NASA mission launched its rover Perseverance on 30 July, the ESA mission takes off in 2022 - and supports the planetary geologists in their search for traces of past extraterrestrial life on the red planet. For the purposes of planetary geological research, the high-resolution orbiter and rover images of the surface of Mars are reconstructed by science partner Joanneum Research and then made explorable by VRVis using PRo3D. Using the interactive tools integrated in PRo3D, planetary researchers can measure and annotate geological and topographic features in these 3D surface models ("Digital Outcrop Model Analysis"). These models and the information they contain are an important basis for decisions, for example, to determine where the Mars Rover should drill for rock samples in the future.
Innovative visual computing technology for geology
Whether for Mars missions or in hard-to-reach areas - the visual computing technology behind PRo3D is ideally suited for remote geological analyses. "The wide range of possible applications of PRo3D shows once again that visual computing is one of the most versatile cross-sectional technologies available," says VRVis managing director Gerd Hesina. "By making PRo3D available as open-source software for non-commercial use, we are providing other research disciplines and especially the international geology community with an excellent tool to advance their scientific work," explains Thomas Ortner. In recent years, PRo3D has already proven its worth in the successful collaboration with the Imperial College of London as the researchers' main tool, leading to many scientific publications and new findings.