20 February 2018

Working with Bournemouth University to build Virtual Avebury Henge and Stone Circle

Checking out the import of the stone meshes

Hot on the heels of our virtual midwifery project at Bournemouth University we're now using Fieldscapes with them on a new heritage research and education project.

Visitors will be able to walk virtually through the ancient Avebury Henge and stone circle, part of the Avebury and Stonehenge World Heritage Site, and experience the sights and sounds of the location as it would have been in the Neolithic period – and well before much of the site was destroyed by the building of Avebury village – thanks to the new experience we're creating with Bournemouth University. The project has been made possible through the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Next Generation of Immersive Experiences programme. The work involves a collaboration between educators and archaeologists at Bournemouth University, sound specialists Satsymph, the National Trust and ourselves.

The main aim of this project is to bring together researchers in archaeology and virtual environment evaluation with creative partners in immersive technologies, virtual soundscapes and heritage management to develop methods of effective, innovative and fruitful working. In addition, the project aims to develop and explore the potential of virtual historical places to increase engagement with, and understanding of, the development of human cultures through a sense of virtual place.

The project builds on work already done by Professor Liz  Falconer on building a prototype 3D simulation  of the Avebury complex. The new experience is being built with using Fieldscapes, Daden’s platform for immersive learning and training. A key feature of Fieldscapes is that subject matter experts are able to create lessons and experiences from existing 3D assets without the need for any programming skills.

The Avebury complex in North Wiltshire is one of the greatest treasures of prehistoric Britain. Built during the Neolithic period around 4500 years ago, the central monument comprises  a circular bank and ditch approximately 1 kilometre in circumference, encircling an area that includes 3 ancient stone circles, and part of the more recent Avebury village. The central monument sits in a large ritual landscape that includes avenues, burial mounds and the world-famous Silbury Hill. Avebury is  part of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site.

By creating the model in Fieldscapes the team will be able to more accurately create the real-world terrain, generate better textured stones, make more use of audio, allow researchers to customise and extend experiences without specialist help, and make the experience available on a wide range of devices including smartphones, tablets and virtual reality headsets.

Bournemouth University Professor and Project Lead Liz Falconer said “We are delighted to be working with Daden, Satsymph and the National Trust on this exciting project. We will shortly be launching a blog and website where we will post regular updates on the work, and give people the opportunity to immerse themselves in Late Neolithic Wiltshire!”

Daden MD, David Burden said – “We’re really pleased and honoured to be a part of this project. We’ve always known that immersive environments can have a significant impact on how we view and understand the past, and this is an ideal opportunity to put our thoughts into practice.”

The virtual experience will be available at Avebury Visitors Centre for the public to evaluate during the summer of 2018, and there will also be an evaluation of remote use for those unable to visit the site. It is hoped that the project will lead to the development of a fuller experience made permanently available to both the public and to schools, and then to the use of the technology for other heritage sites across the globe.

We'll keep you posted on progress as the project progresses.

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