Interfacing with historical reconstructions through Open Virtual Worlds

In a similar way as the PiXaR film Brave, set in an imaginary Scottish castle, introduced millions to Scottish landscapes or computer games such as Assassins Creed enable exploration of historic scenes, the Virtual Time Travel Platform (VTTP) of Open Virtual Worlds enables authentic recreations of community settings as they were in their heyday. The combined experience of Dr Alan Miller, Lisa Dow and Dr Colin Allison (School of Computer Science) in both systems research and technology-enhanced learning, and the domain expertise of Dr Rebecca Sweetman (School of Classics), Prof. Richard Fawcett (School of Art History) and Tom Dawson (School of History), has been instrumental in adapting and developing emerging 3D technologies to create digital interpretations of the past and connected them to local communities. Where Brave presents a single pathway through a fictional narrative, VTTP enables visitors to explore authentic scenes; and, where Assassins Creed delivers pre-defined scenarios to a global audience, VTTP enables community participation in the creation and exploration of scenes directly connected to actual historical communities. Some examples are the Time installation which features a pre-clearance Caen Highland Township, a reconstruction of the St Kilda world heritage site, and the virtual St Andrews Cathedral. The low equipment cost and support for content creation make embedding the VTTP available to small museums for the first time. The Timespan VTTP installation, for example, with a 300” wrap-around display, natural body movement control and visually powerful 3D graphics, forms a highly effective and interactive educational experience.
Additionally, the studies of S1 pupils at Madras College in St Andrews have been enriched as the history of the St Andrews Cathedral was "brought to life" for them with the interactive digital displays.
A new mobile app detailing the mediaeval roots of St Andrews has been launched which allows users to explore 22 key sites across the St Andrews via a range of interactive and media tools. The app is free to download via the Google Play store and is available now and features the 1580 Geddy map, generously donated for use by the National Library of Scotland, and special 'guest appearances' from honorary University of St Andrews alumni Sir Sean Connery and Joanna Lumley. Expansion packs to the app are planned for 2015.
The research was funded by the EPSRC, HEA, and the University of St Andrews.