University of Birmingham Virtual Reality Team Chosen to Support The Historic 2020 Mayflower 400 Celebrations

The University of Birmingham’s Human Interface Technologies (HIT) Team has been chosen to lead a project which will result in the development of a series of exciting Virtual and Augmented Reality experiences. The team chosen by Mayflower 400 group  in Dartmouth UK will focus on the sailing of the iconic ship Mayflower, from England to the New World. This voyage will be central to the 400th anniversary celebrations in 2020, commemorating the sailing of the Pilgrims from the Dartmouth port 400 years ago.

The project will create a virtual recreation of Mayflower which, when completed, will enable people to explore the decks of the ship as though they are actually on board. 

Virtual Reality Mayflower

The appointment of the HIT Team is a result of a pioneering maritime heritage project conducted in 2014, when the Birmingham Researchers successfully developed a highly detailed Virtual Reality (VR) model of the 17th Century Ship of the Line, the Anne. The ship, which was deliberately scuttled to prevent capture by the French after the Battle of Beachy Head in 1690, still exists on Pett Level Beach near Hastings. 

The virtual recreation of the ship was undertaken using 3D modelling and advanced VR techniques. As part of a world-first Augmented Reality demonstration, the 3D ship was “resurrected” at the site of the actual wreck and, uniquely, visualised using the video feed from a small quadcopter. This allowed observers to see Anne from the air in her final resting place.

As part of a world-first Augmented Reality demonstration, the 3D ship was “resurrected” at the site of the actual wreck and, uniquely, visualised using the video feed from a small quadcopter. This allowed observers to see Anne from the air in her final resting place. 

Professor Stone’s team has already demonstrated a scaled-down version of the Virtual Mayflower in the form of Virtual and Augmented Reality scenarios. This process will now be taken further to achieve the same level of detail that was achieved with the Anne. 

Professor Bob Stone, the HIT Team’s Director said:
“We are incredibly proud to have been selected to take part in this historically important celebration and look forward to delivering a digital experience that will benefit visitors to Dartmouth and the other Mayflower 400 towns for many years to come. 

But rather than this simply being another VR ship reconstruction exercise, we have plans in place that will involve our researchers working with the wider community in Dartmouth, including local artists and schoolchildren of the Town’s Academy, not to mention their counterparts in Dartmouth, USA. 

Together, we will develop a series of educational experiences, many actually fronted by historic avatars – virtual personalities of the time, if you will – that will not only bring the Mayflower of the 1600s back to life, but will also bring the two transatlantic towns closer together in 2020.”

Rob Lyon, Dartmouth’s Town Mayor and Chairman of the Mayflower 400 Group said he was delighted that Professor Stone had agreed to join their team.  He said:
“We wanted to have something tangible to show for our efforts in planning this extraordinary project. It isn't just about organising events that only live on in people's memories, for us it is leaving something worthwhile.”

He continued, “The Pilgrims, who were only with us for eight days, left an amazing legacy in the shape of the United States of America that we know today.  And, once the VR experience is completed, we will be more than happy to share it with other towns and schools so as many young people as possible will benefit from Professor Stone's talents.”

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