Over 900 years after the Doomsday Book was commissioned by William the Conqueror to provide a snapshot of England, the BBC repeated the exercise in the mid 1980s. More than a million people contributed to the BBC initiative but because the data used technology which is now obsolete – LaserDisc storage managed by a BBC Micro machine – the project subsequently died.

Fast-forward 32 years and a new Doomsday project is being launched for the 21st Century which embraces multiple platforms and upcoming technology. The long-term goal of the project is to build a library of Virtual Reality enabled content that is readily available both to the educational community and to the property owners.

All kinds of sites can be captured as part of the new Doomsday Project – ancient, modern, derelict or pristine. By utilising Virtual and Mixed Reality, people can actually see places as if they are actually there. Schools will play a key role in gathering the content for the project. To encourage participation and demonstrate what can be achieved, Year 6 students from Christ Church Primary School, Cressage piloted the project by visiting National Trust property Attingham Park to gather content.

The Doomsday Project

The project encompassed more than just history and technology, with students also learning about collaboration, research and publishing.

Aware that their creations will be available nationally, the students were keen to set the bar and produce the highest quality images possible. This high quality of images also means that they can be accessed through virtually any platform, from low-end VR viewers up to the Microsoft MR headsets.

To demonstrate that the project is accessible to all types of school, the only two fixed components used were the Acer MR Headset and the Acer Aspire 7 Laptop. For the image and video editing software, open source editors such as Gimp and Shotcut can be used. Camera-wise, an inexpensive single lens, 360° camera such as the high quality Acer 360 can be used through to professional devices such as the Vuze multi-lens 4K camera.

Using the Engage platform from Immersive VR Education, the library of content gathered can be used by the student creators or other educators to create lessons, for subject support, virtual field trips or themed trails.

How VR can enhance learning experience

The idea of Mixed Reality technology and applications is a relatively new concept to a small rural school with limited access to technology such as Christ Church Primary. As such the students were initially introduced to the concept of Virtual Reality through a number of applications running on the Acer MR Headset platform.

As they were studying Roman history at the time, the students used Microsoft’s Holotour interactive virtual reality app. This lets users explore the City of Rome by flying above the city in a hot air balloon and interactively visit sites such as the Colosseum and the Pantheon as well as witness Gladiators fighting in a Roman arena. “The project makes history more exciting because it feels like you are actually there and it is quite interactive” a student said.

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