Nat Henry | Portfolio

Creating Immersive Digital Landscapes with Computer Vision Software and a Game Engine

Download the game

Sharing Places

Starting in the summer of 2014, I developed a method for digitizing real-world landscapes as interactive 3D virtual environments. This method recreates the sights and sounds of a place, then allows users to navigate and interact with the environment as if they were actually in situ. Using only a kite, a camera, and a few easy-to-use software packages, anyone can record their experiences of a landscape and share them with others as easily as they might share an image or a video.

This project builds on the research of Kitty Currier, a doctoral candidate in Geography at UC Santa Barbara. By using a kite to take aerial photographs and then processing those photographs with computer vision software, Kitty produced a low-cost, high-resolution 3D model of a remote Indonesian island. I have extended Kitty's process by placing the 3D output into an interactive video game engine and thoroughly documented my work flow so that it can be replicated by anyone, regardless of technical background.


The full process is being published as a chapter in the book Geogames and Geoplay. In the meantime, you can download and test my recreation of Santa Barbara's Campus Point cliffs here.

Downloading and opening the landscape is easy:

  • Click on the link above to download the compressed game file
  • Unzip the compressed file
  • Open the folder and double-click on UC_Santa_Barbara_Cliffs.exe to view the landscape.

Navigating the Virtual Environment

Once the game is open, you will be able to explore the Campus Point cliffs at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Use the following controls to navigate:

  • Move the mouse to look around
  • Press the W, A, S, and D keys to move forwards, left, backwards, and right
  • Press the Q and E keys to move upwards and downwards
  • Press Alt + Tab to switch out of the window
  • Press Alt + F4 to close the window
  • For users with an Oculus Rift VR headset, simply plug the Rift into your computer on Extended Desktop mode to view the landscape in VR.