Thesis subject

MSc thesis topic: Virtual Reality for Urban Climate Communication

Virtual Reality (VR) offers novel opportunities to communicate environmental information, to realise place-based education and allow for grounded decision making. Geo-spatial scientists embrace these opportunities as their domain is inherently spatial and therefore offers existing tools to create content for virtual experiences such as geographic information systems. At the same time, VR allows for experiencing not just the present state of an environment but also its past or its future, this is essential for making well-informed planning decisions. Furthermore, VR also allows for exploring what-if scenarios and advancing solutions to challenging problems through a discovery-based approach.
In this MGI project, the focus is on urban climate and in particular wind.

Climate effects in urban environments like temperature, wind or radiation have a perceptual impact on human comfort in open spaces. They substantially influence the experience and use of urban spaces (Lenzholzer, 2015) and are therefore a strong design criterion for outdoor thermal comfort, i.e. turbulent urban wind in some areas like: Downwash/ Downdraft Effect, Wake effect, Venturi Effect, Height – Speed Effect, Downwind Eddy and Counter- Current effect. The need to adapt certain urban areas to climate conditions is well known, decisionmaker like politicians or civilians, next to professionals in urban design fields, are not aware about urban climate adaption strategies (Lenzholzer et al., 2020). To raise awareness about urban climate conditions Lenzholzer et al. call for “effective methods” like “exhibitions, games or workshops” which educate citizens and politician’s through “easily understandable information” (Lenzholzer et al., 2020).

Representations of UC i.e. urban wind (UW) in architecture, engineering, and urban design projects are mainly visual ones, like maps, graphs, symbols, suggestive sketches, translating wind behaviour with arrows (Lambert et al., 2014) or wind simulations, which show analysed wind flow behaviour in an (urban) environment based on CFD Models. Educating about UC, as a visual representation can provide a ‘’fast’’ understanding of complex and heterogeneous data (Tufte, 1997) therefore visual representations play a significant role in communication. In case of UC, visual representations can reveal invisible information or show indicators of UC (Belgacem et al., 2018, Masson, 2000).

New technologies like Virtual Reality (VR) with Head Mounted Displays (HMD) create opportunities to improve education and, in this way, the learning outcome. VR & HMDs can enrich educational environments to visualize complex structures and provide assessment and timely feedback, but VR is still in its formative years regarding how it can be used, and, how it can be designed in an educational context.

To examine if VR with HMD are more effective learning tools than classic multimedia a comparsion study is needed.

Relevance to research/projects

This project is a collaboration between GRS, LAS, and WANDER. It is part of an initiative to advance the use of XR technologies for WUR relevant themes.


  • Contribute to a state of the art review of immersive technologies and their use in urban climate studies.
  • Develop a deeper understanding of the role of wind in urban climate.
  • Explore opportunities to visualise wind as a component of urban climate.
  • Contribute to the development of a proof-of-concept 360° sterescopic video with a HMD.
  • Evaluate the VR experience to demonstrate its effectiveness in communicating environmental information


  • BIOCCA, F. & LEVY, M. R. 1995. Communication in the age of virtual reality, New Jersey, Lawrence Erlbaum Associations, Inc., Publishers.
  • BOUD, A., BABER, C. AND STEINER, S.,“A tool for assembly? Presence” 9(5) Virtual Reality, pp. 486 - 496, 2000.
  • CORTESÃO, J., LENZHOLZER, S., MÜLDER, J., KLOK, L., JACOBS, C. & KLUCK, J. 2020. Visual guidelines for climate-responsive urban design. Sustainable Cities and Society, 60, 102245
  • CRISTIE, V., BERGER, M.; 2017. Game Engines for Urban Exploration: Bringing Science Narrative for Broader Participants. Playable Cities, Gaming Media and Social Effects
  • CRISTIE, V., BERGER, M.; 2015. CFD post-processing in Unity3D. Procedia Computer Science 51, 2913-2922
  • GAUTIER, J.¸M BRÉDIF, S CHRISTOPHE. Co-Visualization of Air Temperature and Urban Data for Visual Exploration. IEEE VIS 2020, Oct 2020, Virtual Conference, United States. Hal-02985484
  • GIRALDO, G., SERVIÈRES M., MOREAU G.,2020 Perception of Multisensory Wind Representation in Virtual Reality,
  • GIRALDO, G., SERVIÈRES M., MOREAU G.,2022 Towards a sensitive Urban Wind Representation in Virtual Reality,


  • Skills in 3D Modelling Software like 3dsMax, Blender, Maya etc.
  • Skills in Lighting and Texturing Processes
  • Video Editing + CGI Video Creation
  • Knowledge in Game Engines (Unity3D or UNREAL) including C++ or C#, esp. Particlesystems
  • Design Basics like usage of colours, proportions, motion and photography
  • Soundcreation, sound editing

Theme(s): Modelling & visualisation; Human – space interaction