Nicholas Hedley

Associate Professor

Research profile

I am a multi-disciplinary spatial visualization and spatial interface designer/developer/applied scientist in the Dept of Geography. I am a geographic information scientist with primary interests in 3D geographic visualization, 3D spatial interfaces, 3D data surveying, and applying these methods to real geographic challenges.

At the core of my research is the process of designing, developing and testing new geovisualization interfaces that respond to applied problems and challenges to characterize and understand the geometry and dynamics of complex spatial phenomena. My program of research is driven by how new enabling technologies facilitate powerful ways to characterize, visualize, experience and interact with geographic data.

I design, develop and deploy 3D geographic visualization, using augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), extended reality (XR), , and immersive virtual reality (VR) systems. My work also involves the design of survey, capture, visualization and 3D analysis strategies, using laser scanning, structured light, photogrammetry, and structure-from-motion (SfM) methods.

I apply these technologies and techniques to respond to a wide range of spatial problems, including: climate change, sea level rise and adaptation; risk communication (tsunamis; earthquakes; mass evacuation simulations); coastal dynamics: coastal vulnerability; rapid-onset hazards; fluvial geomorphology; rigid-body slope mechanics; AI crowd simulations; 3D ecological monitoring on the seafloor (glass sponges); flood risk management in Canada; radiological exposure; digital cultural heritage and archaeological reconstruction; social justice; privacy and drone space analysis in 3D urban spaces; data processing, visualization and interfaces for off-world data, such as Mars.


Fields of interest

  • Spatial interface research
        - Mixed reality (MR)
        - Augmented reality (AR)
        - Extended reality (XR)
        - Virtual reality and virtual environments (VR, VE)
  • Spatial computing (using physical spaces as experiential data visualization interfaces)
  • 3D Geovisualization
  • 3D GIScience
  • 3D surveying and data collection
  • Exploratory geomorphometry and archaeometry
  • Critical theorization of interface-mediated information experiences, metaverses, cyborg theory,
  • Telepresent interfaces
  • Experiential information systems

Applied research themes

  • Earth and space science informatics
  • Climate change and climate futures visualization
  • Environmental and ecological visualization
  • Analytical archaeological geovisualization and interface development
  • Geotechnical geovisualization and interface development
  • Geovisual analysis and simulation of coronavirus
  • Digital cultural heritage
  • Social justice

Current Research Projects


Designing and developing 3D surveying infrastructure for ecological monitoring on the seafloor

We designed, developed, and built an underwater rig that captures very high seafloor geomorphometry, for long-term ecological monitoring/eco-morphometry. The underwater rig was developed (in the dry) at SFU, and underwater in a large ocean-filled tank at DFO’s CAER research lab in West Vancouver. We developed empirical data science benchmarking protocols to assess the veracity of underwater photogrammetry, and successfully repeated deployment of complete, operational, benchmarked rig on the seafloor in Howe Sound, in support of Ocean Wise, Vancouver Aquarium, Coastal Ocean Research Institute (CORI). This work delivered new operational capability to our partners, and resulted in a new body of empirical research that establishes benchmarks for the data science of underwater surveying. This work was tweeted by SFU Research. See video:


Experience-based design of scientific data visualization interface infrastructure

I am using the experience and insight of having designed/developed many 3D interfaces for many different spatial contexts – to inform the design and development of a new generation of scientific data visualization interface infrastructure at JPL. I am currently working on two vectors of this problem – exploring the scientific value proposition of emerging technologies across Earth and space science use cases; and developing the perceptual, cognitive and experiential design framework for integrating XR interface infrastructure for science data visualization into day-to-day science missions, in everyday lab spaces.


Developing analytical 3D tools for flood risk/policy visualization with Municipal Governments

I work with local governments (such as West Vancouver, City of Vancouver) on coastal geomorphometric surveys and analytical risk visualizations. I also explore the implementation of virtual and mixed reality GIS interfaces to support and enrich the way municipal planners, analysts and policy specialists use, and understand complex datasets. In particular to investigate their capability to enhance perception and analysis of structural data relationships in three-dimensional geographic space. We are evaluating their capability to support/enhance flood risk data visualization and use.


Using VR, AR and MR visualization technologies in social justice research

Using 360 VR, we are making it possible for anyone to participate in a walking tour hosted by social justice experts; using immersive VR and tabletop AR, we are allowing users to walk through historical spaces of xenophobia and incarceration, constructed using fire insurance and ownership records; in real-world spaces we are creating holographic reconstructions of families being rounded up – to connect ourselves to the history of this landscape, the people who have moved through it, and the social injustices they have endured.


Between Worlds – demonstrating the potential of XR interfaces for digital cultural heritage

I designed and developed Between Worlds – a radical 3D interface-based exhibit, demonstrating a vision for future learning and engagement experiences with spatial data, geovisual experiences, digital cultural heritage. This work was funded by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, and a partnership with the SNF Centre for Hellenic Studies, and the Museum of Vancouver. It demonstrates the potential and implications of transformative spatial information experiences in public education environments – using extended reality (XR), virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR), 3D data and simulation.

TV feature:

Press/social media:

For more information

See my research website:

I welcome students interested in graduate research in all the areas noted above



This instructor is currently not teaching any courses.