A cave-load of work has gone into being able to deliver the Jenolan Caves Investigation Program to students across the nation, and here is how it has happened…

Watch the video below for the first installment on the making of the Jenolan Caves program.



Discovering the Jenolan Caves

The story begins with a visit by CSIRO and IntoScience to the Jenolan Caves. The CSIRO team used their laser scanning technology, Zebedee, to scan the cave system, while photographs and HD panoramic video was captured. Whilst this was happening, the IntoScience education experts collaborated with the Jenolan Caves managers, guides and historians to formulate ideas about the learning opportunities present in the caves.

Creating the virtual Jenolan Caves environment

Upon returning from the caves, CSIRO converted their Zebedee data (containing over 400 million measurements) into a visible ‘point cloud’. Our visual effects supervisor, Ben Colenso, was then challenged with the task of using a 3D Reshaper to collate all the point cloud data and create watertight 3D meshes. These meshes each contained between 1 – 4 million polygons and operated as the framework for the virtual Jenolan Caves environment.  Combined with the photogrammetry and video footage, the fine details within the caves, including the stalactites and stalagmites, were textured onto the mesh – slowly bringing the caves to life.

“The cave system produces one of the most complicated tasks that I could imagine ever to be encountered for a 3D scanner. Every surface is highly complex with multiple occluding and overlapping surfaces at every level of detail.” ~ IntoScience Visual Effects Supervisor, Ben Colenso

The 3D meshes were then imported into Unity, the IntoScience delivery platform, where our developers were challenged with the task of bringing the Jenolan Caves into the virtual, interactive world. The developers successfully integrated the Jenolan Caves into the IntoScience platform, bringing the IntoScience avatars into the environment and ensuring it was completely functional.

While the Jenolan Caves environment was being simulated into Unity, the IntoScience education experts were busy designing the activities that students would complete while in the caves. The activities were carefully designed with different year levels and curriculum points in mind to ensure students were actively learning whilst exploring the virtual environment.  Through collaborating with chemistry, geology and cave experts, the educationalists were able to construct an all-encompassing, curriculum-focused science experience.

The end result is a totally immersive and authentic educational journey – The Jenolan Caves Investigation Program.