This is one of a serious of posts about the Culture, Heritage & Tourism Technology Workshop at the Serious Games Institute on Tues, 4 March. The event was streamed to the SGI island in SecondLife but I can’t find a link to the slides or any recorded version.
The first session was kicked off by Professor Bob Stone from the Human Interface Technologies group at Birmingham University discussing Virtual Heritage, “Then & Now”. After a quick overview of the history of VR and location reproduction, Bob showed a couple of the older projects and touched on their work with Virtual Stonehenge (which suffered from some clumsy marketing/PR from Intel).
He then touched on a new human factors guidelines for virtual worlds that is about to be published (its currently being vetted by MoD). This should begin to formalise the experiences of the last +10 years into VR. He also mentioned the Virtual heritage network and VIZIN NIZIA (can’t find a website for this) as resources for folks interested in getting into this field (or learning from it).
A few very cool uses of CR that Bob described were Virtual snowshoe mountain, where real meteorological data was being using to show the mountain through the seasons but also demonstrate the effects of climate change over longer time periods. A Virtual great barrier reef where they could model the effect of human intervention and pollution, along with making a CAVE environment for virtual visitors. And a VR dreamscape formed from elements of Lowry’s pictures and reformed into a walk through animation.
Current Work included modelling the Scylla to verify artificial life models. Virtual Scylla blends highly accurate sidescan sonar of the Leander Class frigate with models of how seaweed, fish and silt blooms are degrading the ship faster than expected. There is a serious side to this in that a major tourist site is becoming a potential hazard to diving.
Bob then showed us a quick revisit of Virtual Stonehenge running on the Quest 3D game engine. This allows Bob and his team to link multi-media objects to in-game items quickly and much greater realism that their earlier Stonehenge project.
Mike Gogan, The Virtual Experience Company (now part of Blitz Games) presented 3D Visualisations for Virtual Experience and the interpretation of heritage sites. Having begun some years ago with very (by today’s standards) simple representations of Shakespeare’s birthplace, what Mike was focused on was the story of the heritage site. Mike stressed the need to working subject matter experts for the content but to build in interpretation experts to connect with the audience (and to work out who the audience is).
Around about this the backchannel on Second Life started to heat up. Apparently folks couldn’t see the presenter (cause it was dark) so it just went from night to noon. Folks happier! Except for when the presenter’s didn’t use the mic’s. 🙂
Anyway, back to Mike who was now giving us a flythrough of the Houses of Parliament around 1440. Someone asked about using advertising in-games / media funding to pay for experiences. This wasn’t something that Mike was working on but it might be something to be developed, Blitz have made adver-games for other platforms / purposes.
Last up (before coffee) was Martyn Ware (Future of Sound, Illustrious Company, founding member of The Human League and Heaven 17) with some staggeringly cool examples of 3D soundscape projects from around the world. The focus was on building immersive 3D soundscapes, emotionally engaging experiences through audio. His ambition was to build a “better than Star-trek holo-deck”. Part of the demo was a slightly disconcerting, but very impressive flight of a bird around the room (on the tech front Martyn can control up to 16 sounds, sync’d with 25fps for video meshing).
He was also experimenting with using 3D soundscapes to transport experiences to other locations (Mexico City in Long Beach California). They were also playing with city-scaping (LondonScape) – audio abstraction of a city rather than a representation of that city. The headline project that was on teh title of the presentation was Rome Reborn 1.0 – set in 400ad, Martyn was planning a full 3D sound experience to match the VR experience to convince you you’re in ancient rome. One setting that is in discussion was to repopulate the coliseum with 50k Romans cheering their gladiator.
Another (smaller but no less interesting) project was a sensory theatre at Threeways School in Bath due to opening later in 2008.
I’d really like to get Martyn involved in some research or demonstration projects at the Pervasive Media Studio in Bristol.
And then there was coffee!!