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Virtual reality is the way forwards for this Essex company

PUBLISHED: 13:50 19 July 2018 | UPDATED: 15:19 20 July 2018

Geocurve -  this picture reflects how the company wants to innovate VR together with the University to become a survey tool. Picture: Gary Nel

Geocurve - this picture reflects how the company wants to innovate VR together with the University to become a survey tool. Picture: Gary Nel

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A specialist surveying company based in Essex is undertaking futuristic experiments in virtual reality (VR) with the help of university experts.

Gary Nel of Geocurve with Antonio Mendes of Leica Geosystems with Geocurve's new Leica Pegasus:Two Ultimate mobile scanning equipment. Picture: Gary NelGary Nel of Geocurve with Antonio Mendes of Leica Geosystems with Geocurve's new Leica Pegasus:Two Ultimate mobile scanning equipment. Picture: Gary Nel

Geocurve, in conjunction with the University of Essex, has developed a room-scale virtual reality suite at their base in Kelvedon. With this resource, using drone-captured imagery, the company is developing 3D models by geo-referencing and stitching together many high-resolution images.

The company’s director, Gary Nel, believes that VR “will transform the way we survey and deliver data.”

It’s a far cry from Geocurve’s initial business remit in engineering, when the company was set up by Mr Nel as GN Site Engineers in 2010.

“We changed the name to Geocurve in 2015 with the addition of our drones,” he explained. In the same year, Geocurve completed a drone survey of the entire Norfolk Broads for BAM Nuttall, which was the biggest single survey done by a drone in the UK.

The Geocurve team with their MP Pritti Patel. Picture: Gary NelThe Geocurve team with their MP Pritti Patel. Picture: Gary Nel

Mr Nel says the latest chapter in the story of his business, which is now a subsidiary of the international aerospace services company Strat Aero, is its most exciting.

“This research has widespread use for environmental and industrial applications,” he explained. “Until now surveying information has been displayed using 2D projections of 3D computer information. A recently developed pipeline has allowed the data to be imported into room scale Virtual Reality, which permits visualisation and identification in a way not possible before. The human in the loop can now also be used to identify and classify ‘real’ data inside the virtual world, without being exposed to the hazards of the real one.”

For the past year, Geocurve has been receiving regular advice from the University of Essex during the various stages of their virtual reality development. The university has now provided Geocurve with the latest hardware to support them in showcasing their survey data to their existing clients, and help them build new business in the fast-developing survey sector.

“The interest we’ve been getting from our clients is quite incredible,” said Mr Nel.

Geocurve is in the process of signing a Knowledge Exchange agreement with the University in the coming weeks, which will enable them to hire a full-time VR researcher supervised by a specialist professor.

Geocurve has also been awarded a contract to do site engineering on a number of sea defence projects in flood-prone areas of Essex. The four-month contract is with Hesselberg Hydro, a specialist in the application of asphalt in hydraulic engineering.

The two companies first worked together in 2010 when Geocurve (then called GN Site Engineers) were the site engineers at Abberton reservoir for Essex and Suffolk Water, and Hesselberg Hydro was tasked with dam protection for the site.

Roger Smith, director and founder at Hesselberg Hydro, said: “Geocurve is offering an innovative package unlike any other on the market, and I am excited to start this new relationship.”

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