GEOG 497
3D Modeling and Virtual Reality

3D Modeling and Virtual Reality


Quick Facts 


Alexander Klippel
Associate Professor of Geography (GIScience)
Associate Head & Director of Graduate Studies


Dr. Danielle Oprean
Postdoctoral Research Associate


Course Structure:

Online/Hybrid, 12-15 hours a week for ten weeks

Course Description:

3D Modeling and VR for the Geospatial Sciences is an introductory-level science course that introduces students to emerging topics at the interface of concepts and tools that capture/sense environmental information (e.g., LiDAR) and concepts/tools that allow for an immersive access to geospatial information (e.g., HTC Vive). The course offers a high-level perspective on the major challenges and opportunities facing the development of current 3D technologies, differences between classic modeling and procedural rule-based modeling, the development of VR technologies, and the role of game engines in the geospatial sciences. Topics that will be covered include an introduction to the 3D Modeling and 3D sensing technologies, 360 degree cameras, VR apps and tools, workflows how to integrate environmental information into VR environments, an introduction to procedural rule modeling, hands-on experience in creating 3D models of Penn State Campus, the creation of a virtual Penn State Campus, accessing and exploring a virtual campus in Unity (game engine), and the export of fly overs as regular or 360 videos to platforms such as YouTube.


The Geospatial Revolution is going 3D. Immersive technologies such as Oculus Rift, Samsung GearVR, HTC Vive, are revolutionizing how places and data are viewed and analyzed. Instead of interacting with data on a 2D desktop screen, researchers and decision makers can immerse themselves in virtual environments where geospatial data are represented in intuitive, immersive, and flexible ways. VR and 3D modeling are going hand in hand; with the ready availability of massive amounts of environmental data (e.g., LiDAR) and efficient 3D modeling technologies (e.g., SketchUp, CityEngine), realistic immersive scenarios are easier to create than ever before. We are witnessing a paradigm shift which enables new methods of environmental decision making from urban planning to climate change. The combination of iVR and automated 3D modeling enables models of real-world places to be integrated within data visualization workbenches. This course will provide students with an overview of current developments, details different workflows that are available, and provides hands-on experiences with 3D modeling and VR technologies.

Topics of Study

  • Orientation
  • Lesson 1: Introduction and Overview of 3D Modeling and Virtual Reality
  • Lesson 2: 3D Modeling and VR Workflows
  • Lesson 3: Hands-on Modeling using SketchUp
  • Lesson 4: Introduction to Procedural Modeling
  • Lesson 5: Introduction to Arc GIS Pro and 3D Modeling ArcGIS Pro 
  • Lesson 6: 3D Spatial Analysis
  • Lesson 7: ArcGIS Pro 
  • Lesson 8: Unity I
  • Lesson 9: Unity II 
  • Lesson 10: Outlook

Learning Objectives

When students successfully complete this course, they will be prepared to:

  • Understand and apply the concepts of 3D modeling and VR, they will be in a position to distinguish concepts such as virtual, mixed, and augmented reality.
  • Explain and implement workflows to created 3D content from existing, historic, and future environments.
  • Use a variety of software solutions for 3D model creation such as SketchUp, CityEngine (theoretical), ArcGIS Pro, Unity.
  • Understand the emerging possibilities of environmentally sensed information.
  • Create 3D models and make them accessible in an interactive way through the use of game engines.


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