Virtual Reality comes to mining

Moon Patrol VR launching cutting edge VR technology

by Ellsworth Dickson

Dan Audet, Managing Director of Moon Patrol VR Inc., displays HTC Vive goggles with the Richmont Mines room-scale VR demo on the computer screen (in two dimensions). Photo by Ellsworth Dickson.

Photography has a long and illustrious history since it was invented in 1827 – glass plates, colour, moving pictures, 3D – and now virtual reality. Just what is virtual reality? Virtual reality, or VR, is the interactive viewing of wide-angle, panoramic photo-graphs and/or animated graphics and data (depicting drill holes, for example), generally encompassing a 360-degree circle or a spherical view.

However, VR is more than a photograph or animation. These depict a three-dimensional subject in two dimensions. 3D photographs add depth but are still on a flat plane. So while virtual reality consists of images and/or animation of the subject of interest, they are not on a flat plane. Instead, the user visually “enters” the image or animation and moves around inside as if he or she is actually there by using interactive software and a stereoscopic headset for viewing. This realistic interactive experience is controlled by movement of the user’s own body.

This ground breaking technology can be used for entertainment purposes as well as industrial applications, including mining. That’s where Moon Patrol VR Inc. comes in, a Vancouver, BC-based company headed by Dan Audet that is specializing in developing VR technology for the mining sector with partner LNG Studios.

The company’s objective is to provide VR images and animation of mine data that can be used for investor relations as well as for engineering and geological purposes. For example, one of Moon Patrol VR’s clients, Lucara Diamond, can “take” prospective investors to their Karowe diamond mine in Botswana. Using VR goggles, the visitor can actually walk around and even hover over the mining operation to get a much better understanding of the mining and processing procedures; this experience is called mobile VR.

What is really exciting is how the VR technology can take engineers and geologists underground and “float” through the rocks, tunnels and stopes and view drill holes, rock types as well as the size and shape of the ore deposit. Part of a geologist’s job is to visualize the geometry of a mineral deposit in three dimensions – not always an easy thing to do, especially in the early stages of exploration. VR technology presents information gathered by diamond drilling, surface mapping, underground development and visualizes the geology in three dimensions. Data from Gemcom, Surpac or Leapfrog can be incorporated into the VR experience.

mining in Val d’Or, Québec, a famous Canadian gold mining town. His father is a geological engineer and, therefore, Audet was familiar with the industry. As a graduate of the University of Victoria with a degree in Commerce, a year ago Audet struck upon the idea of commercializing and adapting VR technology to the mining sector by utilizing existing video game technology with his own technology and Moon Patrol VR was created. Under Audet’s guidance, the company, in conjunction with LNG Studios, now has about 20 employees that are developing VR technology for various mining applications.

To date, in addition to Lucara Diamond, other clients include NGex Resources, Richmont Mines and NexGen Energy. Audet said discussions are underway with many other mining and exploration companies. He added that his programmers can handle projects from creative to shooting, animating, coding, and through to the final mobile or room-scale VR experience. Room Scale VR is usually powered by the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, and requires a fairly powerful gaming computer to run it. You can walk around in a room, surrounded by your mining data and see it all in the highest quality possible. The system tracks your head and gives you the ultimate VR experience.

Audet is also developing augmented reality for the mining industry.

Yet another development that Moon Patrol is working on is mixed reality technology using a Microsoft HoloLens. Moon Patrol plans to utilize the Micosoft HoloLens which combines holograms with the real world. Using this technology, mining companies will be able to see their graphically presented mining data in a real world setting. Talks are underway with majors interested in this technology.

“I believe virtual reality is a cutting-edge technology that will be warmly received by the mining sector,” said Audet. “From plotting drill holes to visualizing resource shells, we have gone from paper, to Mylar sheets, to computers and now to VR. This is a paradigm shift for people involved in mineral exploration and mine building.”


In an interview, Audet said that he grew up surrounded by

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