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What Lies Beneath: Visualising and Interpreting the History of Submerged Landscapes

In the fifth of the Heritage and Technology series, we’re joined by Professor Bob Stone, Emeritus Professor, eXtended Reality and Human-Centred Design at University of Birmingham. In his talk, Bob looks into the historical visualisation and interpretation of Submerged Landscapes Using VR Data Converted from Autonomous Vessel Surveys.

Listen to what Bob had to say here:

Speaker transcription*:Without further ado, do you think got Professor Bob stone here, factory patients Bob and I were a bit late on due to unforeseen circumstances, but we still got a good audience. So please, Bob, take it away in your own time. Thank you very much. Thanks, Keith. Yes, and thanks for hanging on folks. It's I'm I'm presenting from a very sweltering caravan down in Cornwall, which is quite interesting because it's in this part of the world where a lot of the projects that my team and I do in the virtual heritage arena, so it's good to be able to present. I'm just very, very briefly, I run a little team University Permian based technologies team, my backgrounds and human factors are involved in extended reality for a better decision for 35 years from a lot of our work. A lot of our pain work is in defence technology, evaluation and heritage, particularly brilliant scenes of nature, to individuals who are who are sort of confined to a hospital or recovering. But my passion has always been heritage, ever since I was a young chap pre University, going to places like Dartmoor and being able to, in fact to be able to detect and discover things that people really didn't realise what existed there. It wasn't until really the 1990s, the early 1990s, when I witnessed this fantastic demonstration using the marriage, ISBN link where the young lady in Paris was giving a member of the cloth of the priest, a guided tour of the abbey to Clooney, and I thought it was this is incredible, this really is amazing that we can get people interacting in the same virtual space somewhere that never existed. And then bring it more to Upstate ish 9095, we were given 12 days to develop the demonstration you were seen on the left, very, very simple. I mean, had it not been had it been any other painting. Laurie's we would not be able to do this by being able to suck the viewer using virtual reality into coming from the middle there circa 1935. In support of Salford City Council's bid for the Larry Centre, which as I'm sure many of you know, what was it was actually very, very successful. So this is where I really got the got the bug for virtual heritage if you'd like. And it was not until 1995 96 that we really were able to demonstrate what virtual reality could do. It is interesting to listen to the talks about Stonehenge, we actually built the first virtual Stonehenge along with a desktop Virtual Reality comfortable super scape based in Aldermaston a time, with the idea of using virtual Stonehenge to show people what they're not able to see normally. In other words, you can get the stones because the acid destroys the lichen. So your friends Dr. Stones, you never get to see things like Christopher Wren's graffiti, these things, these carvings on the stones, not to mention the cursors and the avenue and or the Barrows would hinge up the roll up the road. These are things that really don't get exposed, not very for ordinary people who are not know when they visit the sites. And we were lucky at the 1996, the day before the summer solstice in 1996. We were fortunate enough to team up with the late and unbelievably great Sir Patrick Moore, and we presented our virtual Stonehenge and the sunrise Stonehenge plus a fairly accurate nighttime sky which we developed using a database from NASA at the London planetarium. Each of these stones, which are based on English Heritage photogrammetric service survey had to be re rendered into polygonal format you by hand that goes just goes to show how you really had to be dedicated to virtual or actual heritage back in the day, and then being able to convert that into something that makes the invisible visible, hence the title of my talk. So you see the stone that contains the crystal red graffiti, you can walk around the stones you can get details on the side stones and the blue stones, you can get their specificity their specific tools that you can bring that bring the history to life as what are the markings were particularly to say the the graffiti bite by Sir Christopher Wren. So maybe on to where I am roughly now and what we've been doing over the over the years to Desmond for the present day. And obviously I've not got time to go into any into all of these but you've probably gathered from my accent that I'm from the west country anyway. And so it makes me being able to come down here and work on Dartmoor work in Cornwall, work in Plymouth Sound. It's a no brainer. And it's great to be able to do this because the number of people we come across members of the public school kids and this is what piece. The piece entitled tonight's presentations and tonight's event is all about making this available to inspire and engage audiences that we've done projects from for example, HMSA seven bottom left that's a pre World War One submarine that's tragically Frank law hands. The glaucous is one of my favourite up near breakwater 14 Plymouth Sound. That's the UK first underwear The habitat that practically nobody in Plymouth knew existed in such a poor state the moment right through to looking for down western world with aircraft crashed in flocks to admire in Second World War and so on. So, there's a whole host of these projects that draw us down, draws down to West Country and with the aim of engaging members of the public and carrying out STEM activities with school kids. One of the recent ones we've done before I've gone to the burrito project is the virtual Mayflower and the actual Mayflower and 1620s Barbican. And again, this video is available on site, we presented this back in 2020, at the anniversary is the fourth anniversary of the pilgrim sailing from Plymouth, over to the new world. And that involves an enormous amount of research. And there is no funding for this at all, sadly, so this was a labour of love over quite a few years to build up a representation of Plymouth Barbican, which was as much more structured and organised and littered with pasty shops today than it was back was back then. And it's a public engagement is what to me what this is all about. And we're here we have a 1620 symposium, we were lucky enough also to be loaned at a smell system by comp American comfortable OVR. So we were able to link the triggering of in many cases pretty disgusting smells, to be released into the noses of the individuals who want a ticket in a lottery that we did to come over one weekend to be able to see the Mayflower experience and and to engage with engaged with the team. Anyway so that's that's kind of the potted history of why why we do what we do down here, but I'm focusing on Bara toward the end but it was one of those areas that not many people really know about. Some of you will have seen warehouse and warehouse was filmed around the burrator area and the the abandoned house bits were the common lovely place. I used to go and chill there when I was doing my A levels and we aren't going back on there. But the Steven Spielberg was really drawn to the area around that shitstorm corner that image and the countryside and the Moreland and just the sheer beauty and starkness of some of the areas on Dartmoor. I'm biassed, obviously but it's nice to get a second opinion second opinion from someone such as Steven Spielberg. Now it seems silly but the reason we were there was not to do with heritage it was a healthcare project. It was looking at whether or not we could deliver scenes virtual nature into hospital to help cognitive and physical rehabilitation for patients coming out of major surgery. And this in itself was was really successful. We chose two areas. One was a coastline area which I won't bore you with was was Berto which never really got that far. But what we found was by modelling parts of Barreto, we were coming across all kinds of embedded buried hidden pieces of heritage that again, talking to locals, nobody knew it was there. Nobody knows at these things, these these things were there. And over a period of time, we discovered all kinds of amazing, amazing artefacts from the old railway line barge when shipped to Robben Island brought the guys who built the dam up from Plymouth and other areas, too, as we find which I'll come on to a second, an old suspension bridge built in 1927. And which was built in order to raise the raise the level of dam. And that's just a small selection. And what we discovered in Bartow, and a lot of these things are hidden behind extensive rhododendrons. almost inaccessible, but people go to Barito they get out of their car, they buy the ice cream, they look at the watershed. Oh, that's nice, isn't it get back into their car and they go away again, if only we could encourage them to go on almost like a treasure hunt to find these fantastic pieces of history which introduce health care into heritage well it's something that Keith and I have talked about in the past. So some of the reconstruct reconstructions he got here. Both are both these done in Unity. This is the old house, a baritone sheep store. In the one it is a nighttime version, which really is amazing. It's some you stand on the platform and you hear a dismissal from the locomotive creates the illusion that you've actually missed your last train and it really is quite a very eerie, a very eerie experience. And Spitfire flypasts from RAF Haripriya which is literally just down the road. Of course being a dam we couldn't resist experimenting with some augmented reality to get the the the Lancaster flyover as well. So that's that's a little limited. We use a lot of technology to help build these things. So this is again, the 14th century manor house Longstone Manor, which is on the coastline on the shoreline of Bartow. What you see at the bottom is is a pix 4d recreation of the remains the manner taken using our DJI Inspire drone and converted from the video using this this tool picks for day and it does actually produce a really nice accurate 3d model texture doesn't handle water and trees Have you but in terms of being able to get back into Unity saves us an awful lot of time. So again, so again, no examples of history on the barter area, which has been there, then enables that enables us to go out and recreate the 3d models using some of the the geometric qualities of the data that we've we've got from from drone surveys, all done with permission, of course. So over brand, which is fine, but of course, backwards. And we knew from talking to people that there were things under the water. And what we wanted to try and do is to build a model, a 3d model of what ballots will look like, and the path between the northern side through the religious sheep store before it was flooded in the late 1800s. Again, nobody knew everyone was talking about the flooded filling village, the fact that when it's when there's a drought, the church spire appears, and the church bell rings, which ultimately we discovered, we thought, well, wouldn't it be nice if we could just find out what's down there and how its distributed things like sheep stalbridge essary farm the path, all these again, lost lost the human eye forever because of the reservoir. We teamed up with a company called Space services insurer, basically, I'm sure back in two in 2015 2016. And we they were game with Krishna deployed their autonomous surface vessel on bioresour with the high definition multibeam sonar so here you can see the burrator area with Plimoth distance and you can see the areas that we covered using this set using the system for that for you see as you see the thing in action there. So there's this, this this this autonomous surface vessel went up and down with the sonar categorising, categorising the, the what was underneath what we did then was we took the X Y by X Y Zed points from the multibeam sonar output put it into our Global Mapper men enhanced it somewhat with with Photoshop and then took that height map RAW format and put it into into unity. And thing with Unity is that you can then add azimuth and elevation lighting which enables you to interpret what was done there by the by just just changing the life changing the shadow. And this gives an example of what we found. So on the top left is a segment of that of the unity converted underwater data. I can see ESRI farm which is people see the foundations here. You can even make the old duck pond, you can make all the all of the hedgerows and agile, defend foundations. You can match up the field boundaries with the 18 late 1800s map. And you can trace what was the river movie before it was flooded, cheap store bridge just there. And also drinks lead to famous Drake's lead, taking water originally from the Moors down into the Devonport area of Plymouth. And we've been we've been very gradually again, this is an unfunded labour of love. So we've been building up a 3d model of all these all these, these key areas, and just again to show people what exists, what lies beneath and what people can't see. Now if you're doing this, we came across some very interesting blips, this is the main dam. This is the lake this is the area where the 1920s suspension bridge went across the reservoir. And then these these very smooth hemispherical blips that seemed to go across the encrypt the entire width of the reservoir. I'm not too sure what these are about. So Tom Moore archive, always a fantastic source of data for pictures of the more or less of the Moreland area in extreme weather conditions. So this is the this is one of the 1950s droughts, and lo and behold, you can see these fears. And these fears. They're not small. They're about four foot in diameter, resting on what looked like chains. We were very intrigued by this and was wondering, Well, is there any way we can find out what these were? Interestingly, it became very obvious quite quickly that they were torpedo nets or the remains of torpedo nets that were put in place in the 1940s to stop the Germans from torpedo in the dam. Again, nobody knew they were down there. A lot of people have passed on since then. But there was evidence that the Germans were interested in taking this time out and flooding the valley depriving companies water supply and also probably taking the small village of the beautiful village village of Naevi. Just down the remainder of the of the river, maybe 1941 German reconnaissance picture and the 19th of May 1941. This young as 88 crashed the seat you can see in fact the sheep store just crashed on the bank of the reservoir. And the pilots were temporarily in turn in sheets or church that this would these would craft that are capable of carrying torpedoes. So there is evidence that may may have been some interest in taking the dam out we even today When you go to this area, you can put your hand in, in the Southern Earth, and you can pull out electrical items, pastors bits of wire from that crash to absolutely amazing. And then we were looking at an old lady in our world who actually gave us a picture which I blew up in the 1940s. Lo and behold, you just make out two sets of spheres on the surface. So the fact that this whole pyramid was there was absolutely amazing. And we also found discussions in the National Archives classified, including minutes for meetings and involved bonds. Wallis of the bouncing bomb and Dambusters fame that define it actually confirmed that the 2200 pound the nets were transferred from Palestine where they were protecting the more Navy ships to protect the damn cheap stuff a little bit. This is this is relatively boring, but they're basically trusting torpedo nets, and they consistently Spofford spheres under which these chainmail nets are actually are actually dangled. So to confirm that they were down there, we deployed a couple of our remotely operated submersibles, the RG several the blue ROV, and you can see I mean, I think we were three quarters of the way through our battery power. And we came across one of the spheres here. And also you can see then underneath the net, the chainmail nets that they're actually resting on, we have a slightly better view from our little Trident, open Trident or V which will deploy quite recently in another project. But you can see that as the sphere comes as a sphere comes at murk, I got the attachment point. So we had actual confirmation that we were able to present the local community that these these, these, these artefacts were down there, we've done a second survey, but again, very limited by the turbidity of the water. But this time, we went down with a more capable submersible with sonar. And you can see the curvature of some of the off some of the spheres there. What we're hoping to do is next mission is to take a much smaller, much more capable, autonomous surface vessel and take it around this this barrier is the barrier that exists across the cross the reservoir now, and try and map out if these spheres actually still exist, the net the chainmail nets, and the spheres exist, from one side of where the original the original suspension bridge was right over to the other. And again, we quite enjoyed presenting this to all the nearby villages and a variety of different, different venues. And I think that's, that's the most important message here is public engagement. But few more projects, we're doing good in the area, for example, last literally last week, we were in the case, Yeltsin in South hands, and we would carry Matterport scans. We were trying to do this in November, but unfortunately there were a horseshoe bats, hibernating unfortunately, we're definitely not there this time. And we're also trying to get from the caves, through one of the underground flooded passages and see if we can trace that out to the river Yealm. We weren't successful this time, but we plan to have another go. And also, as part of the Plymouth National Marine Park project, we were creating a scan, again, 3d scanning using the Massport in garden battery, which is built in 1862. Finished 1863 originally had nine inch muscle living cancer, again, we're experimenting with augmented reality to show people what the kinds of size accounts relative to the relative small nations small construction nature of the of this installation, which you can see on Planet sound. As you're as you're coming across all hospitals as the primary to the projects we're doing, again, related to local engagement and participation by public and school kids, getting elderly people who check their boxes, issue boxes, things maybe underneath the bed before they pass away and all these wonderful heritage assets I've chucked out, we'll call it farmhouse is goes back goes back as far as Catherine of arrogance, some very interesting connections. And what we're doing with the seven Valley Railway, using a virtual reality reconstruction of a Great Western Railway carriage compartment and just make it the GoPro GoPro cameras on both sides of the Great Western character carriage from from Kidderminster to bridge north. So we're trying to merge video with the three dimensional model the carriage and we're going to be presenting that in care homes in the kilometre area initially, where there are a number of ex workers of the railway in that area. So again, another example of health care from heritage. I do believe that heritage virtual heritage and they will enable people to get out, walk and learn much more about their surroundings then than Virtual Reality alone. To say public engagement and outreach is absolutely central to what we do is we're not gonna be millionaires by doing virtual Hara. because that's for sure I'm convinced by that but we aren't going to help educate and engage North of all people including these lovely folks and this is the beautiful village of of Navy with the Royal Oak pub. If you ever run that area for goodness sake go and visit its borders and here's the people that we presented them the the the barter reservoir tool, pyramids, project two, and you can see they're all very very grateful that the Germans never took the time out and watch this beautiful village. Wait, thank you very much. Amazing Bob, thanks so much for that and great to you know, provide in the time slot there as well know where you know, you can't delayed so brilliant

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