Developing Virtual Reality Visualizations for Unsteady Flow Analysis of Dinosaur Track Formation using Scientific Sketching

IEEE Trans Vis Comput Graph. 2019 May;25(5):2145-2154. doi: 10.1109/TVCG.2019.2898796. Epub 2019 Mar 21.


We present the results of a two-year design study to developing virtual reality (VR) flow visualization tools for the analysis of dinosaur track creation in a malleable substrate. Using Scientific Sketching methodology, we combined input from illustration artists, visualization experts, and domain scientists to create novel visualization methods. By iteratively improving visualization concepts at multiple levels of abstraction we helped domain scientists to gain insights into the relationship between dinosaur foot movements and substrate deformations. We involved over 20 art and computer science students from a VR design course in a rapid visualization sketching cycle, guided by our paleontologist collaborators through multiple critique sessions. This allowed us to explore a wide range of potential visualization methods and select the most promising methods for actual implementation. Our resulting visualization methods provide paleontologists with effective tools to analyze their data through particle, pathline and time surface visualizations. We also introduce a set of visual metaphors to compare foot motion in relation to substrate deformation by using pathsurfaces. This is one of the first large-scale projects using Scientific Sketching as a development methodology. We discuss how the research questions of our collaborators have evolved during the sketching and prototyping phases. Finally, we provide lessons learned and usage considerations for Scientific Sketching based on the experiences gathered during this project.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Art
  • Computer Graphics*
  • Dinosaurs / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods*
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Smart Glasses
  • Virtual Reality*