From 1997~2001, Virtual Snowshoe was the concept for my PhD work at the Virtual Systems Lab in Gifu University, Japan, in virtual environments called "Enhanced Environments". These were virtual environments that were connected to real time, real world events to impact change and evolve the virtual ecosystem.
Enhanced Environments is a new method for using real-time information to eventually support large-scale, climatic virtual environments that foster virtual life and natural eco-behavioral conditions. The purpose of this research is to create an enhanced environment where the hydrological conditions and the real user are integrated into an immersive, real-time eco system. For this research experiment, we customized available GIS satellite, terrain, and photography data to construct a highly accurate, large-scale virtual environment. Next a web-based climatic collection system was developed to persistently collect real time weather information for the physical area being modeled. Finally an Enhanced Environment Module was created to support a ‘living’ virtual eco-system supporting real-time climatic conditions. This type of enhanced environment lays the groundwork for creating dynamic environments that integrate the behavioral patterns of climate, artificial life, user interactions and their complex interrelationships within a dynamic virtual world.
There are five major elements that exist within a virtual reality environment that make it considered as enhanced:
• real-time, enhanced information
• reduction in storage
• reduction in computational resources
• natural pulses and Rhythms
• hybrid Integration of Visualisation-Simulation, Artiﬁcial life
Virtual snowshoe was modeled in 2000~2001 using (then) a highly advance prototype of the Unreal Engine that was experimenting with supporting large terrains. I was able to get 7.5m DEM data and aerial photos in which to generate the entire 10~20mi area in the game engine.
Next I created a web based control module which polled various weather information directly from the Snowshoe Ski resort in West Virginia and a couple other places, and used this data to update the environment in real time. Real time streaming data sources for establishing streaming information included weather, hydrology, snowfall, temperature, snow coverage, and slope conditions.
As you can see from the images below, we were able to capture all four seasons, add layers of snow, affect the foilage colors and change the fog density. The objective was to get as close to the 'real' environment as we could in the virtural environment.
The complete published dissertation was published in the MIT "Presence Journal" found here: http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/105474602317473196?prevSearch=allfield%253A%2528refsland%2529&searchHistoryKey=