A demonstration of a tsunami simulation designed by a team of researchers and developers from the University of Victoria was on display this week at the 2018 #BCTECH Summit held at Canada Place in Vancouver (Photo by Kieran O’Connor/Black Press)

Virtual simulation engages users in the event of a tsunami hitting Port Alberni

A team from the University of Victoria display a tsunami simulation at the 2018 #BCTECH Summit

  • May. 17, 2018 12:00 a.m.

A team of researchers and developers based out of the engineering and computer science departments at the University of Victoria is developing a virtual simulation based on information from an earthquake that impacted the area of Port Alberni in the 1700s.

The team held the simulation on display at the 2018 #BCTECHSummit at Canada Place in Vancouver from May 14 to May 16.

The tsunami simulation, as the team describes it, is a virtual reality game that demonstrates the impact of a tsunami hitting the town of Port Alberni.

“On Vancouver Island, the threat of a tsunami is real, and the group saw an opportunity to leverage advances in mersive technologies, so virtual and augmented reality, as a way to help communities prepare,” says Nico Preston, a researcher for the team.

Preston explains that once a user puts on the virtual reality headset, they will have a moment to explore an accurate representation of Port Alberni, then an earthquake will become detected and trigger a tsunami and a rise in sea level.

“As the person watching the flood waters rise through the simulation, you can interact with it and help dispatch fire trucks, you can help coordinate the evacuation,” says Preston.

The team wanted to find a way to use their technological skill set and apply it to a local problem.

Preston explains that the simulation has been underway for the past year and have been in collaboration with Ocean Networks Canada to receive data of a realistic map of the seabed and a realistic map of Port Alberni. As well, the team has worked with WestGrid and IBM to develop the data, in conjunction with Ocean Networks Canada, into a visual product.

“By having communities see flood waters rise near their homes, schools and businesses you get people thinking about how they would respond and how they would prepare,” says Preston. “Our long-term vision is to have these tools to be useful during the event itself by providing emergency operation support.”

Preston explains that the team does not want to limit themselves strictly to the impact of tsunamis, but that their platform would become readily adaptable to the impact of flooding, fires and eathquakes.


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