360  degree view inside HMS Courageous submarine torpedo room
360 degree view of the HMS Courageous submarine

A team of researchers at the University of Birmingham has deployed state-of-the art Virtual Reality (VR) technology to allow visitors with mobility difficulties to experience life on a nuclear submarine.  

The researchers worked with the Naval Heritage Centre in Devon to create an interactive 'walk-through' model of HMS Courageous, a restored nuclear submarine which is currently open to the public (by prior appointment) at Her Majesty's Naval Base in Devonport. The new VR exhibit allows people who would not otherwise be able to negotiate the steep ladders and small doors to go on a virtual tour of the submarine. 

The installation merges VR representations of the submarine with 360o panoramic digital images.  In this way, visitors can understand exactly where they are on the submarine whilst being able to look around the detailed images of their current location onboard. 

Section view of HMS Courageous submarine showing locations of 360 degree viewing points

The project was led by Professor Bob Stone, Director of the University of Birmingham's Human Interactive Technologies  (HIT) Team, who has a long personal and family history of involvement with submarines at Devonport. The installation builds on the SubSafe project, a 3-year development and evaluation study to assess the training potential offered by Virtual Reality. SubSafe allowed submarine recruits to explore a computer-generated nuclear submarine prior to joining, and to become aware of the location of compartments, onboard facilities and safety-critical items of equipment.  

Virtual HMS Courageous submarine at dock hangar

Professor Bob Stone, Director of the University of Birmingham's Human Interactive Technologies (HIT) Team said:  “SubSafe was a major success for the team and brought us a number of industry and government awards. 

“I’m proud that the technology and insights we initially developed through SubSafe are creating new opportunities for people to experience and learn about life onboard HMS Courageous.”