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Virtual Avebury - and AHRC Project


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These posters describe the AHRC funded project carried out by Bournemouth University, the National Trust, Daden Limited and Satsymph to investigate the use of VR to support heritage interpretation and communication.

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Virtual Avebury - and AHRC Project

  1. 1. A Creative Partnership to Develop Immersive Simulations of Ancient Heritage Sites The Partnership The partners in this project are virtual reality developers Daden Limited, soundscape specialists Satsymph, the National Trust, who own and manage Avebury, and Bournemouth University. The Project Avebury henge and stone circle is a late Neolithic monument in North Wiltshire, estimated to have been built between 2,800 to 2,000 BCE. It is the largest known stone circle in the world and, at 1 kilometre in circumference, it is one of the largest henge (inner ditch and outer bank) monuments in the UK. Today most of the stones have gone, the banks have slipped and eroded, the ditches have filled in and a small village lies in the middle of the henge, so that the original size and complexity of the monument is now difficult for visitors to appreciate. This project simulated how Avebury might have looked and sounded circa 2,300 BCE in an immersive, 3D virtual reality environment. The simulation was then openly available for public engagement and evaluation at Avebury between June to September 2018. Virtual Avebury Under Construction Daden create a greyscale map from Environment Agency Lidar data, and import into their Unity 3D FieldscapesTM platform… … to form the first terrain model. The ditches and banks are then terraformed to the heights and depths interpreted from archaeological data provided by BU and NT… …to simulate the henge as it may have appeared circa 2,300 BCE. Satsymph start to build the soundscape structure… …and we all work together in the virtual environment, developing the visual and audible character of Virtual Avebury. We record and mix sound effects such as flint knapping… We create Neolithic artefacts such as grooved ware pottery sherds and red deer antler picks… …and human voices speaking, laughing and calling. … and all the parts are finally synthesised to create Virtual Avebury.
  2. 2. Who were our participants? A Creative Partnership to Develop Immersive Simulations of Ancient Heritage Sites How did they feel about their experience of Virtual Avebury? Did they feel a sense of place in Virtual Avebury? Were any differences in experience associated with demographic data? What did they say? “However fascinating, the sense of the stones themselves is more powerful. This really filled in the gaps though and helped understand what was missing. The two together (physical and virtual) are a brilliant combination” “Nervous when I went under ground or near the edge of the a good way!” “Awed and exhilarated would be good words to add” “While not invoking additional curiosity, the VR certainly enhanced the visit and my appreciation and understanding of the site” “I would enjoy VR experiences as I can like the perspectives it gives me, but not sure I would select venues just because it’s available” What did they say? “It was amazingly realistic in terms of being able to move around, but as there were no people (apart from the static couple) or animals, and nothing moving, it wasn't completely believable” “Wow, I’d like to have gone further and interacted with village people and may be cook or do something more constructive” “I thought the effects were very good, graphics were good and sounds helped to enhance the experience” “It felt very different to the Avebury I know, particularly in separation from the surrounding landscape and the monuments. But that enabled a different sense of the place to be appreciated” “I felt completely immersed in the landscape. It was really interesting to see the difference between the real stones outside and the simulation. The difference between the sizes of the banks and ditches was particularly striking!” Virtual Avebury was available for public engagement on 45 days from June – September 2018, in the Barn Gallery of the Alexander Keiller Museum at Avebury. More than 700 people tried the experience, and we collected analysable data from a sample of 388 of those participants. They came from 18 different countries, 280 from the UK and the remaining 108 from the countries shown on the map to the left. The age range in our sample was 16- 85. Although many children experienced Virtual Avebury, our research was concerned with users over 16 years old, for ethical and practical reasons. Question p Immersive tendency 0.0008 Sounds made me think about Neolithic people 0.01 Find my way around 0.04 Bring history to life 0.05 Believable as a place 0.22 Enjoyable 0.25 VR good in museums 0.27 Sense of place 0.31 Find out more 0.38 Closer to people 0.45 More likely to visit heritage site with VR 0.66 Game playing 0.71 Frequency of IT use 0.93 Question ρ for male ρ for female Sounds made me think about Neolithic people 0.14 (P 0.05) 00.06 (P 0.36) Find my way around 0.176 (P 0.02) 0.03 (P 0.66) Bring history to life 0.05 (P 0.5) 0.14 (P 0.05) Believable as a place 0.05 (P 0.53) 0.15 (0.03) Enjoyable 0.116 (P 0.11) 0.23 (P 0.0009) VR good in museums 0.13 (P 0.07) 0.1 (P 0.15) Sense of actual landscape 0.038 (P 0.61) 0.12 (P 0.09) Find out more 0.23 (P 0.0014) 0.067 (P 0.33) Closer to people 0.105 (P 0.16) -0.04 (P 0.53) More likely to visit heritage site with VR 0.10 (P 0.16) 0.12 (P 0.08) Game playing 0.038 (P 0.6) -0.028 (P 0.69) Question ρ Sounds made me think about Neolithic people 0.025 (P 0.62) Find my way around 0.019 (P 0.7) Bring history to life 0.11 (P 0.03) Believable as a place 0.058 (P 0.26) Enjoyable -0.006 (P 0.91) VR good in museums 0.049 (P 0.33) Sense of actual landscape 0.07 (P 0.16) Find out more 0.01 (P 0.85) Closer to people -0.021 (P 0.68) More likely to visit heritage site with VR -0.078 (P 0.12) Table 1: Two-sample (male/female) Mann-Witney significance test table (significant where p ≤ 0.5) Table 2: Spearman rank correlations with immersive tendency for males and females Table 3: Spearman rank correlations against frequency of IT use for both sexes combined Broadly, no. We have carried out a number of statistical tests on the data to see if demographic data such as gender, familiarity with IT use or immersive tendency of individuals was associated with responses to experiences in Virtual Avebury. Table 1 shows that there was a very significant difference between male and female responses to the immersive tendency question, but little other significant difference. Table 2 shows that there is little correlation between immersive tendency and Virtual Avebury experiences, and Table 3 shows very little correlation with familiarity with IT use. So, positive responses to Virtual Avebury occurred across a wide range of our participants. Over 100,000 views of the NT Avebury Facebook page post Virtual Avebury at AveburyThe Barn Gallery at Avebury The age/gender distribution of our participants Where our participants came from Percentages of age groups in UK population compared to Virtual Avebury participants