The Department of Electronic, Electrical & Systems Engineering’s Human Interface Technologies (HIT) Team took centre stage at this year’s huge Devon County Show, held at Westpoint, just outside Exeter. The Team had accepted an invitation to partner with the BBC and to use the event to show off the wide range of Virtual and Augmented Reality projects it has been, and continues to conduct in the County of Devon.
Amongst the demonstrations on show was the virtual recreation of the Devon Coastal Path at Wembury Bay, currently being evaluated at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital to help patients recover from serious abdominal and lower limb surgery.
Other demonstrations included the hidden above- and below-water historic worlds of Burrator Reservoir near Plymouth (showing how sonar data, collected from an autonomous catamaran) was used to identify the natural and man-made elements of the River Meavy Valley, flooded in the late 1800s, and the use of drone technologies to help reconstruct important archaeological and heritage sites without the need to venture into protected or hazardous Dartmoor locations.
The centrepiece of the HIT Team’s exhibit, however, was the Virtual Mayflower project, and, over the three days of the Show, around 250 interested visitors, young and old, were able to experience the “Mayflower Then and Now” demonstration by donning a VR headset and exploring not only a digital reconstruction of the famous 1620s vessel, but also the Mayflower Autonomous Ship, designed to traverse the Atlantic without a crew in 2020, 400 years after the original sailing in 1620. During the Show, the Virtual Mayflower exhibit was visited by the Countess of Wessex, who remarked that she was impressed by the way young people were being engaged by weaving modern technology with history.
Of the HIT Team’s participation and hard work, Emma Clements, Assistant Editor at BBC Radio Devon, said, “Thank you so much for being part of the Devon County Show this year. We had so many positive comments about your involvement from visitors and the professionalism, commitment and enthusiasm of your whole team made it an absolute pleasure to work with you. The scope of the work you are doing here in Devon amazed and intrigued our visitors and I’m sure many visitors young and old will remember the University of Birmingham as the first place they experienced Virtual Reality. I know that Dr Sarah Wollaston (Chair of the Health Select Committee) and other visitors like the Chief Executive of the Dartmoor National Park Authority and Her Royal Highness Sophie Countess of Wessex were fascinated by your work and the opportunities it opens up to all”.
Professor Bob Stone, HIT Team Director added, “Despite the rain and mud and spending over three days standing in a large marquee, both my team and the equipment we ferried all that way performed impeccably. The sheer range of public and professional visitors we had to the stand was totally unexpected and we’re already receiving follow-up contacts suggesting new and exciting heritage and healthcare VR projects in the South West”.