Bringing virtual reality to the common man

MSU Texas student teams with professors to publish research paper “Photogrammetry Software”

Daniel Bowen has long been interested in virtual reality. But creating virtual environments is difficult, especially for the average person on a modest budget.

Bowen, a Midwestern State University graduate in 2021, turned his interest and dedication into a published paper titled “Photogrammetry Software” in Transactions on Computational Science & Computational Intelligence, part of the Springer Nature Research Book Series. MSU Texas Computer Science Professors Tina Johnson and Catherine Stringfellow also authored the paper.

Photogrammetry is the use of photography in surveying and mapping to ascertain measurements between objects. It’s a scientific method of obtaining measurements from a photograph, then creating a realistic environment on the computer.

Bowen started his project by taking photos of the Liberty Bell in front of the Hardin Administration Building at MSU Texas. He also took his camera to Gates of Hercules located on Taft Boulevard near Bolin Science Hall.

The project required personal sacrifices, Bowen said. “I used my gaming computer for the process, so I had to sacrifice playing games for a few weeks. It couldn’t do anything else while it was processing the data.”

Light detection and Ranging, LiDAR, is a system that uses pulsed laser light to measure distance, according to the paper. One goal of Bowen’s research was to see if “just Joe Schmoe with a gaming computer and a phone can go out and do this.”

The equipment used in this study was:

  • Windows PC with Ryzen 7 3700x, 32GB DDR4 3200MHz, and RTX 2080 Super
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 4k video capture
  • Adobe Photoshop CC 2020 for converting video to photos

Bowen wanted to take several photos and then convert them into a 3D model. “You lay the textures back over, and you get a mostly real environment to move around with,” he said. One drawback is that the equipment to accomplish this was too expensive for the average layperson.

Johnson praised Bowen for being a “hard, independent worker.” 

Stringfellow encouraged him to instead to find a class that would be of great interest to him. That advice led to Bowen finding his passion and something all three of them could contribute to the field. “Daniel is a very good writer,” Stringfellow said. “I have nothing but good things to say about him.”

And it was important for this collaboration to get everything in the format publishers require. “If you don’t get it published, no one will know about the research,” Stringfellow said.

Johnson and Stringfellow said research work such as this being published is great for MSU Texas and future students who realize what can be achieved through research.

Seeing it published and then eventually getting a physical copy is a big deal to the group, especially Bowen. He could even “cite himself” with future work on this project.

Stringfellow noted that the reviews included that a researcher wanted their paper to get approved for that reason. “They wrote, ‘I want to reference this paper in my work. I recommend this be accepted because I want to use it in my own work.’”

Stringfellow, Johnson, and Bowen were happy to provide benefit to this field with the paper, and they realized that those who come after them build upon the foundation of this work. The three had portions to write individually but enjoyed the collaboration on the project. “It’s very collaborative in nature,” Stringfellow said.

“It’d be cool if just anybody could go outside and take a video of anything, slap it on their computer, and 3-4 hours later, you have a usable 3-D model,” Bowen said. “I learned that before I start a project like this the next time, I want to have a better graphics card. I want to be able to take scans. Honestly, I learned a lot about LATEK (a document preparation system).”

“It’s not there yet. It’s kind of a How-To on using open software and a comparison,” Johnson said.

Bowen is working as a full-time stack developer and planning to pursue his Ph.D.