Using GigaPans To Provide Interactive Access to Outcrops and Landscapes Remotely
and to examine detailed information recorded by rocks exposed in outcrop. These experiences can be difficult to incorporate into the classroom (particularly larger introductory courses). When travel is impractical, high resolution interactive panoramas like GigaPans(R) can be used as "virtual field trips", allowing students to gain experience applying geoscience concepts in the field and providing detailed records of locations for research.
GigaPans are gigapixel panoramic images, typically created using a GigaPan robotic camera mount and a digital camera. The robotic mount takes photos over a user-specified grid covering the area of interest, using the highest zoom available on the camera. The resulting images are stitched using associated imaging software and then uploaded to the GigaPan website (http://www.gigapan.com). The panorama viewer allows users to interact with the pan from the widest view down to the limit of the camera resolution. Panoramas can be geo-referenced, linked to Google Earth, and annotated with "snapshots" that act as bookmarks, taking viewers directly to a specific image extent and zoom. Comments associated with snapshots can act as captions describing the closer view. In addition to robot-generated panoramas, large images from other sources (> 50 Mpixel) can be uploaded for viewing, such as mosaics from other sources (e.g. microscope cameras) stitched using the GigaPan software or large images such as those from satellite datasets.
Although pans can be viewed directly on the website, it can be difficult to navigate as there are thousands of public panoramas available for viewing. Registered users can create and share GigaPan Galleries, which are lists of GigaPans chosen by that user. Panorama authors can embed pan viewers in websites, allowing creation of "virtual field trips" on outside pages: the pan data resides on the GigaPan servers, but the embedded pan can be viewed on the external page through similar interactive controls. Such webpages are useful in educational contexts, as they can be used to include pans in homework assignments or to show in the classroom. The panorama viewer is compatible with mobile devices, and can be used as virtual field guides. The utility of multiple scale panoramas (from thin section, hand sample, outcrop, landscape, up to satellite image) allows for creation of detailed remote virtual field experiences.