Virtual sightseeing

Tourists will soon be able to see UK castles as their architects intended them.


Tourists will soon be able to see UK castles as their architects intended them — newly constructed forts rather than mounds of earth and long-ruined walls.


All thanks to the University of Nottingham’s interactive systems team which has developed handheld computers that enable visitors to the city’s castle to see it as it appeared to Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham.


Professor Tom Rodden confirmed that castle staff found US tourists had a big problem because they expect to see a complete castle.


In addition to presenting a 3D model of the castle, the handhelds incorporate both GPS and accelerometer devices so that the virtual tour can identify precisely where the visitors are and in what direction they are moving.


The development of the interactive handheld system is part of the Equator project, a six-year Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration (IRC) supported by EPSRC, which aims to help people interact with their physical environment using digital technology.


One team of researchers involved in the project has already built applications so that youngsters can interact with the places they visit on school trips. Another is working towards a pan-European pervasive gaming network where players will be able to play games that use their physical location as part of the experience. The Equator project has also resulted in the development of a portable computer for joggers that pits them in races against virtual competitors.


The network of caves under Nottingham city centre has deployed a different type of interactive technology also developed under the Equator umbrella — they give visitors torches that trigger each underground display when light falls on designated hotspots. Sensors on the displays enable them to identify each visitors’ torch which has a unique filament, making it possible for the displays to produce different exhibits for each visitor.