DROITWICH residents wanting to follow in the footsteps of the town’s famous Pilgrim son Edward Winslow can get a taste of what being on the Mayflower 400 was like through a Virtual Reality (VR) reconstruction of boarding the vessel.
Experts have developed the Virtual Mayflower to recreate the Barbican Harbour area in Plymouth in the 1620s.
It allows the VR user to board a small boat at the original site of the Mayflower Steps before taking a short journey out to the ship and experience passengers and crew preparing to set sail.
Led by VR experts at the University of Birmingham, the project was six years in the making and uses computer-based interactive technologies, such as Virtual and Augmented Reality (AR) to recreate history.
The Virtual Mayflower project has been led by Prof Bob Stone, Director of the Human Interface Technologies (HIT) Team at the University of Birmingham, himself born and bred in Plymouth but now living in Droitwich Spa, the birthplace of senior Pilgrim Edward Winslow.
Winslow was instrumental in the establishment of Plimoth Plantation and cementing a strong, early relationship with the Native Americans.
Prof Stone said: “Virtual Mayflower is a magnificent way to commemorate a key point in history that shaped the development of the United States – an immersive experience that transports the viewer back to Plymouth in 1620.
“As well as being a great demonstration of the power of VR and AR technology, this has been a collaborative and educational exercise over many years involving members of the public, local historians, schoolchildren, artists and actors – all contributing to the development of highly detailed and authentic virtual models and scenes.”
Prof Stone and the HIT Team worked with a range of partner organisations on the project, including Royal Leamington Spa College, responsible for developing the virtual Pilgrims – Barbican inhabitants, plus the passengers and crew (including an avatar of Edward Winslow), and Plymouth-based Bluestone 360, who will be hosting the simulation online.
Specialist digital artists and VR specialists Robert Guest and Chris Harvey coordinated the development of the 3D assets.
Prof Stone added: “We also developed an international partnership, involving groups and talents in the USA, such as Plimoth Plantation and Massachusetts, to deliver a truly ‘hands across the Atlantic’ cultural legacy.”
The Team has also been developing VR and complex navigational animation sequences for the Plymouth-based company MSUBS, as part of their Mayflower Autonomous Ship project, a vessel designed to reproduce the transatlantic crossing of the Pilgrims using state-of-the-art maritime sensing and AI technologies.
The Pilgrim Fathers founded the settlement of Plymouth, Massachusetts – the first permanent colony in New England.
Of the 102 colonists, 35 were members of the English Separatist Church who had earlier fled to Leiden, in the Netherlands, to escape persecution at home.
Prof Stone is back in Droitwich after being part of the launch of the Mayflower Autonomous Ship earlier this week in Plymouth to mark the 400th anniversary of the start of the original journey.