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Tech Researchers Tackle Devil's Slide with gVT Software
July 28, 2008

Virginia Tech engineers have developed exciting new software technology, geotechnical Visualization Tools (gVT) that allows the use of 3-D visualization for making detailed maps of rock masses – either above or below ground, as they are exposed by excavation.

The software is being used by the engineers in the construction of twin roadway tunnels for the California Department of Transportation, which will relocate coastal Highway 1 away from a recurring, damaging landslide known as Devil’s Slide.

The benefits of using this technology are that it accelerates collection of critical engineering geologic information, creates a digital record of the rock that can be accessed at any time, and reduces worker exposure to hazardous situations.

The new technology employed at the Devil’s Slide project uses a tunnel laser scanning system to acquire data for 3-D visualization from the tunnel’s interior during excavation. Laser scans consist of closely spaced data points collected by reflecting a laser pulse off of the rock surface many thousands of times in a defined pattern. The points, collectively known as a “point cloud,” have their positions in space referenced by traditional survey measurements. The gVT software allows visualization of these data in three dimensions along with the capability to assess geological conditions from the safety of an office computer.

gVT’s success in the Devil’s Slide tunnels is an important step in furthering the use of scanning technology in underground construction, and research on this technology continues at Virginia Tech.

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