In an interview with HighGrade, Geosoft’s Ian MacLeod and Troy Wilson gave a status report on VOXI Earth Modelling, the Geosoft cloud-based 3D modelling service previewed at the PDAC 2012.

Since the VOXI service went live in April more than 200 explorers – major companies to individual consultants – have created over 1000 models in the cloud.

“We have heard from VOXI users, across every continent, who are logging into the cloud-based modelling service from drill camps, airport lounges, hotel rooms and corporate offices to explore their data and create 3D models,” said Geosoft’s market development director Troy Wilson. “Many are surprised at the relative ease and speed of the service.” 

Ian MacLeod, Geosoft’s chief technologist, said VOXI is most impactful for explorers trying to get a handle on what is causing geophysical anomalies over their prospects in the early stages of exploration, when time is of the essence.

“We truly believe this represents a step-change in how explorers will work with their geophysical data,” he told HighGrade.

“VOXI is the first truly cloud-based commercial modelling service that puts supercomputing power in the hands of any interpreter with an internet connection. This means that modellers can handle very large models and deal with much higher resolution problems than was possible before.”

“A geoscientist can run a complex inversion model on powerful server farms in the Microsoft Azure cloud, instead of relying on the limited processing power of their own computer. Explorers are routinely creating earth models in minutes with VOXI. Models as large as 12.5 million voxels are being processed in under an hour using the VOXI service. This type of modelling could consume a full day of people and computing resources using traditional technology.”

MacLeod said the Microsoft Azure platform had lived up to expectations.
“As demand grew, Microsoft moved VOXI services off a server farm intended for web applications and onto a system designed for heavy processing tasks. A big benefit of a cloud approach is that this kind of change happens transparently for VOXI users. With the switch, we are now able to comfortably spin-up cores as we need them and thus allow any number of models to run concurrently without a significant wait,” he said.

Geosoft has new development in the works. MacLeod described how the “recent renaissance” in airborne gravity gradiometry, which was particularly useful in detecting and discerning deposits associated with high-density rocks and ore, had produced a lot of data that needed to be modelled.

“Our next release will support gravity gradiometry modelling, including full tensor systems and vertical gravity gradiometry,” he said. “We have also developed new and innovative techniques to deal with the important challenge of topography in the gravity problem.”

According to Wilson, the strong interest in VOXI from smaller consultants, as well as mid-tier and major exploration companies, bodes well for the broad application of cloud exploration services in the mining market. “While cloud computing is fairly new to exploration, there is great interest and demand for making advanced 3D earth modelling capabilities more effective from both a time and cost perspective.”

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