News | Tuesday, 13th February 2018

Bringing an ancient Neolithic tomb to life in augmented reality

A new project will develop a new way of exploring the Bryn Celli Ddu tomb

Bryn Celli Ddu
Bryn Celli Ddu

State-of-the art technology will help bring an ancient prehistoric tomb to life, thanks to a new research project.

Dr Ben Edwards from Manchester Metropolitan University, is leading a project that will create an augmented reality experience of the Bryn Celli Ddu Neolithic passage tomb and its landscape.

Bryn Celli Ddu is an ancient chambered tomb in Wales, and one of the most important prehistoric monuments in northwest Europe attracting around 10,000 visitors a year.

While the tomb dates back to the Neolithic age around 5000 years ago, the surrounding landscape has more than 10,000 years of human activity, ranging from Mesolithic hunter-gatherers to prehistoric rock art panels.

Reconstructions of Bryn Celli Ddu

Dr Edwards’ project aims to develop an augmented reality visual reconstruction using sound-art to allow visitors to experience the full history of the tomb.

The project, worth more than £55,000, is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council as part of a new scheme that explores the future of immersive experiences.

Digital reconstruction of the past

The project will use augmented reality technology to fully immerse members of the public in the prehistoric setting. The hidden history of the site will be revealed through audio-visual technology.

Dr Edwards, Senior Lecturer in History, said: “We will use digital technology to add historical context to the tomb through the use of video and sound that will engage and inspire audiences.

“The augmented reality and virtual reality systems will provide fully immersive experiences – and will provide a novel and engaging way of experiencing the site. We will also place the systems online so that people who can’t physically visit the site will still be able to experience it.”

The first phase of the project will see the development of the technology and the connections between specialists. Following this, an app-based augmented reality and virtual reality system will be developed for those who cannot visit the site.

Reconstructions of Bryn Celli Ddu

A separate project led by Richard Brook from Manchester School of Architecture has also received funding as part of the scheme.

Brook’s project aims to preserve buildings digitally that are at risk of being demolished. The first phase of this project will lead to a virtual reproduction, via augmented reality, of Jackson’s Row Synagogue in Manchester on a mobile device.

Future plans for other buildings will see this approach proceed to the development of mixed-reality experiences that can be geo-located, allowing people to visit demolished or redeveloped buildings in their original location using untethered wearable devices.

Professor Richard Greene, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Research and Knowledge Exchange Directorate, said: “Ben and Richard should both be commended for having secured two of the funding grants for immersive experiences launched by the AHRC.

“Their projects are truly multidisciplinary – combining state-of-the-art digital technology, architecture, history and sociology, and will have a real, measurable impact on the communities they involve.”

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