Thesis subject

MSc thesis topic: Embodied digital twins: remote sensing, and game engines for understanding and communicating environmental information.

Environmentally sensed data such as LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) are key drivers of the data revolution and have led to a deluge of data available to address environmental challenges from climate change to the nitrogen crisis. In order to turn the flood of observations and measurements into information and ultimately knowledge, we need efficient data processing and advanced visualisation capacity to develop a user-centered approach which allows experts, students, and the interested public to efficiently create an understanding of challenges and potential solutions at hand.

Wageningen University and Research (WUR) widely use environmentally sensed data to advance cutting-edge research in domains such as forestry and forest monitoring, agricultural research, especially agro-robotics and plant science.

LiDAR, for example, is a remote sensing technique that can retrieve the 3D vegetation structure in high detail. This technique is becoming omnipresent in numerous industries such as agriculture, forestry and the military. In combination with advanced visualisation techniques such as virtual reality and augmented reality LiDAR technology can facilitate the creation of highly-detailed representations of real-world environments.

In this project, we are exploring the integration of different environmentally sensed data sources to create a digital twin of different environments and experience it through virtual reality. Specifically, we will be integrating 360 photography and videography and a range of measurement tools with high resolution LiDAR data into a coherent virtual experience. The goal is to provide educators, researchers, and decision-makers with intuitive and comprehensive access to environmental data as a basis for addressing critical environmental issues.

Immersive technologies such as augmented and virtual reality, are entering a new era. Thanks to substantial investments by leading companies (e.g., Facebook(™), Microsoft(™), and Google(™)), immersive media are becoming mainstream, that is, they are affordable and rarely cause cybersickness anymore. At the same time, the creation and the design of immersive experiences are getting easier and easier and accessible to many more people. Tools such as Unity(™) or Unreal(™), that is, game engines, are sophisticated and well-supported development environments.

This project is built on synergies between advances in environmental sensing and modelling and developments in immersive visualisation made possible by VR becoming mainstream. Better sensing and advances in data science allow for applying the concept of digital twins, which has a long tradition in engineering sciences, to be applied to more complex and less deterministic natural environments.

Relevance to research/projects

One of the strategic initiatives of WUR is the creation and exploration of Digital Twins. GRS is leading efforts to create digital twins for environmental applications. ESG is in the process of establishing a landscape visualisation laboratory (WANDER) to facilitate efforts for integrating advances in visualisation technologies into environmental applications.


  • Collect point cloud data from LiDAR sources
  • Match 360 imagery data to LiDAR data
  • Integrate different data sets into a single experience using, for example, Unity (will be supported)
  • Visualize data using immersive virtual reality (will be supported)



  • Willingness to learn about 360 photography and videography
  • Interest in technology and digital storytelling

Theme(s): Sensing & measuring; Modelling & visualisation