Our Games at NERC #UnEarthed2017 17-19 November 2017

Last year we took our Flash Flood! game to the NERC Science Showcase, Into the blue. We had an amazing time, and you guys seem to as well as we were voted as one of the most popular exhibits. Read about what we got up to here, and also check out our article in NERC’s magazine Planet Earth.

We are very excited therefore to be returning for this year’s NERC science showcase, UnEarthed, held at the Dynamic Earth centre in Edinburgh. You can find more details on their website – tickets for the public days are free.

The stand this year, Keeping Back the Floods, is organised by the Energy and Environment Institute, University of Hull. It features two of our popular Virtual Reality games – Flash Flood! and TideBox (formerly Humber in a Box) – and will let you get hands on with the cutting-edge of flood risk science and the latest in gaming technology.

 

 

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#GuessTheData Answer – 04/10/2017

What is this data? Answer below the Picdynhum

This is the Humber, showing the region immediately north of South Ferriby, with Read’s Island and the Old Warp sandbank.

The background is a visualisation of LiDAR data, a high resolution laser scan of ground heights. It’s made up of several scans over the period 1998 to 2016.

The green dots and red lines show the location of a bathymetric survey performed in 2016. This uses an instrument called a multibeam which scans the surface below water, s the green dots show the location of the channel used by shipping in 2016.

It’s clear from the background data that when the LiDAR scan was taken there was no channel, so at some point the channel in the Humber has shifted and eroded into the sand bank.  The Humber is indeed dynamic, and this causes problems when we try and predict what will happen in estuaries using computer models which do not allow for changes like this.

All data available via the Environment Agency’s Open Government License portal.

Our 360 Tour of Hull for @BSG_Geomorph #BSG2017

Hello, and welcome to the latest news from the SeriousGeoGames Lab.

We’re really excited for September. First, we will be back at the Freedom Festival 2017! You can come and try our Virtual Reality games – TideBox and Flash Flood! – and learn about why flooding happens, and how changing climate and changing landscapes will increase the risk in the future. You can find us in the big inflatable cube on the C4Di carpark, Sat and Sun, 2nd and 3rd September.

Straight after we are running back to the University of Hull campus for the Annual Meeting of the British Society for Geomorphology, where we will be working with the Outreach Committee of the Society to showcase River-in-a-Box, an AR Sandbox, TideBox and Flash Flood! to the delegates. Chris Skinner will also be running a special advanced version of our Defend the City workshop, and sharing the latest discoveries from the Landscape Evolution Model Sensitivity Investigation Project (LEMSIP).

We can’t wait to welcome scientists from all over the UK (and the world) to our city of Hull. To help them find their way around, we made them a 360 video of some of the sights. As with all our 360 videos, these are best viewed on a Desktop PC, or on a mobile device via the YouTube App (otherwise it doesn’t work properly). Remember – look around.

We didn’t get it right all the time, and we put some of our outtakes in the video below.

We have more exciting news to share with you in the coming weeks, so keep an eye on this site, or our Twitter, to be the first to know.

 

A Virtual River-in-a-Box = Problems!

If you’ve been to an event and played one of our games, you will have most likely also seen the River-in-a-Box mini-flume. This is a big box of plastic sand, through which water flows, building miniature rivers.

IMAG0467

Xuxu setting up River-in-a-Box for Hull’s Freedom Festival in 2015

I’ve been trying to recreate this in a computer model called Caesar-Lisflood – the model that is built into TideBox. Caesar-Lisflood not only simulates water flows, but is designed to simulate the movement of sediment (mud, rocks, stuff like that) to show how geomorphology processes – erosion and deposition – change the landscape. My latest attempt is below, and there are many, many problems with it.

Let me explain why this is an issue. Caesar-Lisflood was designed to simulate changes to large areas (eg, whole river basins) over a long time (more than 1000 years often). If it were an athlete, it would be Mo Farah – lean and quick, keeps a steady pace, and although capable of a sprint when required, it’s there for the long-haul. Trying to use it to simulate the River-in-a-Box is like trying to make Mo Farah compete in the 100 m sprint – he is not optimised to do this in way another athlete, say Usain Bolt, is.

The main problem we have is that this video shows nearly two weeks of processing on the computer. That is slow – slower than the time it is trying to simulate (a few hours’ worth of changes in the River-in-a-Box*). One of the purposes of computer models is that they are much quicker than real-life so the fact this is far slower means, scientifically, it isn’t much use.

There is also instability – you will see areas in the flow which look like a chequer’s board and this is too much water being moved downstream that the physics in the model then immediately moves it back upstream, and this continues, back and forth. It’s a bit like when you were a kid when you ran down a hill and went so fast your feet couldn’t keep up so you tumbled over – we can help the model to stop doing this by instructing it to slow down in certain areas, such as restricting the amount of water it can move from one place to another in one go.

As it is, this is a pretty (yes, it is pretty) rubbish piece of modelling (my fault, not the model’s), but there is potential here. We use flumes, which are like River-in-a-Box but bigger and more advanced, to better understand how landscape change. We use computer models in a similar way, and the physics we learn from the flumes helps us develop the models. The ability to simulate the flume environments in a computer model would be a useful one as we would learn more about how our experiments work, what their weaknesses are, and how we can make them better. This in turn will improve our ability to simulate the real world and, for example, forecast risks like flooding with better accuracy.

I hope to share more of this experiment with you as it develops. Thanks for reading.

Dr Chris Skinner – @floodskinner

*Actually, technically, it is still quicker than real-life. As Caesar-Lisflood is like Mo Farah, to help it out I made the course more like the 10,000 m. All dimensions and times in the model have been multiplied by 100, so for each centimetre in the River-in-a-Box the model is told it is a metre. Likewise, to simulate an hour the model is simulating 100 hours (the video shows more than 28 days of actual simulated time). The only thing not scaled in this way is the size of the sediment, which is kept at 0.0003 m.

#GuesstheData Answer – 13/07/2017

Fans of the work of Dr David Nash, Brighton University, UK, will love this piece of data. Particularly fans of his 1996 Earth Surface Processes and Landforms paper.

GTL 130717

The Hackness Hills image above was produced via a Hillshade on Ordnance Survey OS Terrain 5 Data downloaded from Digimap (OS Terrain 5 [ASC geospatial data], Scale 1:10000, Tiles: se99ne,se99nw,se99se,se99sw, Updated: 2 April 2017, Ordnance Survey (GB), Using: EDINA Digimap Ordnance Survey Service, <http://digimap.edina.ac.uk&gt;, Downloaded: 2017-07-13 09:40:15.365).

It is, of course, the wonderful groundwater-sapping formed valleys of the Hackness Hills in North Yorkshire. Below is a view from Google Maps –

GTL 130717 sat

These valleys are unusual as they are formed by the emergence of groundwater to the surface, so erode in a headward direction. This results in them appearing much stubbier and wider, and much larger than the size of the river would suggest. They are quite similar in appearance to some channels on Mars, and are seen as a terrestrial analog for the Martian valleys.

The nearby Hole of Horcum, just to the west, is thought to be formed by the same processes, but looks quite different.

The view from the top of the Hole of Horum (left) and inside the Whisperdales, Hackness Hills (right), taken by @floodskinner

Flash Flood! YouTube Now Online! #Isurvivedtheflashflood

We are very, very excited to be able to unleash our YouTube version of Flash Flood!

You can view this on a PC, but it’s best viewed using a phone or tablet where the motion tracking allows you to easily view the full 360 view. If you have a cardboard headset, such like our #ISurvivedTheFlashFlood VISRs, then hit the goggles icon on the video, stick you phone in and try the Flash Flood! VR experience yourself. It’s even better with headphones.

The #ISurvivedTheFlashFlood VISR VR Headsets – the ideal way to view Flash Flood! on YouTube

Do keep your eyes on our Twitter, Facebook and this blog – we hope to release more YouTube videos like this in the near future, as well as support to use this is the classroom.

If you want a copy of our full game version, it is now free to download on SourceForge.

Finally, thank you NERC for the funding, and thank you BetaJester for the development.

What’s coming up? Lots!

Ok, I’ll admit, we’ve been a little quiet of late. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t been busy working on new games to fascinate and entertain you at future events.

At the NERC science showcase, Into the blue, we won one of the four prizes and this has allowed to develop Flash Flood! further. We’ll be using the prize to make interactive YouTube walk-throughs of the game meaning anyone with an internet connection can try it, and using a cardboard headset can even get a sense of the VR.

matt-itb

Dr Matt Perks – @catchmentsci – demonstrating Flash Flood! at Into the blue

Last September we began working with students from SEED Software on two (yes, two!) projects. The first is a rebuild of Humber in a Box, making it smoother and more intuitive – this new iteration of the game will be called TideBox, focussing on the science of estuaries more generally than just the Humber (although the Humber still features prominently).

Development shots from Defend the City

The second is our most ambitious project yet – Defend the City. The games uses the CAESAR-Lisflood model to simulate the flooding in our town, Uncanny Valley. The player(s) get to build in their own flood defences on the attractive 3D environment, and then see just how successful they have been. It will be used during workshops, and will convey two key issues of flood defence –

  1. You can never eliminate flood risk completely
  2. Flood Managers have to strike a balance of cost and benefit with any scheme

We hope to debut all three of these projects at Hull Science Festival, April 2-4 2017. It is free but you will need to pre-book some activities.

Finally, if you want learn more about the Humber, its landscape and how it has inspired poetry, you can hear SeriousGeoGamer Chris Skinner on the Radio 4 Seriously… Podcast ‘I, by the Tide of Humber‘.