Mobile augmented reality for environmental monitoring

The tools for environmental monitoring have created a dearth of data that can be vital for researchers; however, a common issue is that researchers find themselves laden with data left to sort and process for it to be usable, and it can cause a disconnect with the project and the physical environment the data is about. Four researchers from academia and private tech corporations published a paper in 2012 bringing attention to this issue, calling on augmented reality to bridge the disconnect between data and subject matter by bringing the data alive while remaining physically present in an environment. Their proposed technology suite can be interpreted as a basis for more complex and site-specific monitoring scenarios and consists of five key components, the first of which is a LAN network to provide “off-site access to sensor information” such as database access or web portals. The LAN network also provides a wireless connection to link the surrounding sensors to the portal or database in real-time. The second component is a Global Sensor Network that essentially consolidates and standardizes the data collected by sensors measuring unique variables, like temperature and air pressure. This component is critical because, in order to create a virtual experience where one could visualize the data being collected by sensors, the data has to be usable. The third step is using an “analysis aid” that plugs the data into the relevant plug-ins that can display different types of data (elevation, moisture, temperature, etc). The fourth step is a network of cameras that give different “perspectives” or angles where data can be viewed and provides imagery for the AR experience. The fifth and final step is the actual device where researchers can view the data, which requires the necessary hardware, which in the case of their prototype development was a tablet, and software that can support multiple “plug-ins” that display the different types of data being collected. At first pass, it may seem complex, but the process of showing data in real-time in the location where the data is being collected is a complex process and an emergent field of study within environmental monitoring. Making this method of immersive environmental monitoring accessible is an ongoing consideration. However, the process and core components described in this paper provide an essential foundation for future forays into incorporating AR into environmental monitoring. 

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Data, Ecological Monitoring, Immersive Technology