It was standing room only at the Pett Level Beach Club near Hastings on Friday 12 December when EESE’s Human Interface Technologies Team’s Director, Professor Bob Stone, and PhD students Chris Bibb and Vish Shingari, presented the results of their Virtual and Augmented Reality Anne heritage project to local residents, historians and visitors.
This project was the result of 4 months of research and intensive developmental effort, not to mention a highly successful collaboration involving two visiting students from Arts et Métiers, ParisTech, Laval in France, Cécile Thevenin and Emilien Bonhomme. Individuals of all ages, from 3 to those in their late 70s, and from all walks of life, came along to witness the recreation of an important piece of British maritime history, the remains of which lay well and truly submerged just a few hundred yards away under the breaking waves of the English Channel on a stormy winter’s day.
As well as a brief presentation on the short history of the project and a background to the loss of the Anne at the Battle of Beachy Head in 1690 by Jacqui Standford, Director of the Shipwreck Museum Hastings and Licensee of the Anne, attendees were able to witness how the virtual ship was modelled in great detail, timber by timber, the process having been captured in a special video. They were then able to “visit” the Anne, exploring the harbour side, upper and lower deck scenes courtesy of the latest Virtual Reality head-mounted display technology. Finally, the same Augmented Reality marker that was used in September 2014 to create the world’s first example of a 3D heritage site filmed in real time from a hovering hexacopter, was laid out on the floor of the Beach Club, enabling the audience to see and move around a scaled-down version of the ship using tablet computing technology.
All agreed that this had been a truly unique public engagement event, not only helping to make local villagers aware of the importance of the Anne and the fragility of her wrecksite, but also in introducing the audience to the latest in computer graphics and human interface technologies. Bob Peacock, an accomplished maritime archaeologist (who was, in 2008, credited with discovering the astonishingly intact remains of a German Dornier 17 bomber shot down during the Battle of Britain off the coast of Kent) was particularly complimentary about the HIT Team’s effort, describing the 3D images as “stunning”. The results of the EESE Team’s efforts will feature at two key events in 2015, the International Shipwreck Conference in Plymouth in February and a special commemorative event to mark the 325th anniversary of the Anne’s loss in Hastings in July.