Making the VikingVR headsets

The first major output of the DiNAR project will be an AHRC and EPSRC funded VR component for the 2017 Viking: Rediscover the Legend exhibition at the Yorkshire Museum.

Through cinematic VR, museum visitors will be able to experience immersive vignettes of life in the camp of the Viking Great Army at Torksey in Lincolnshire.

The project is informed by archaeological research at Torksey led by Julian Richards (University of York) and Dawn Hadley (University of Sheffield) and will provide archaeological insight as well as emotive personal experiences.

DiNAR Project - Team meeting December 2016

The project team will be working closely with the WEAVER Project, led by University of York’s Creativity Research Champion, Damian Murphy, to deliver a programme of engagement to regional creative practitioners, heritage professionals, VR researchers, and public audiences in 2017.

VR headsets

As part of the research for DiNAR, the team have produced hand-made, custom-built VR headsets for use in a museums context. These headsets have been designed to provide a robust and immersive experience of the VR scenes for the Winter Camp, whilst being in keeping with the ambience of the gallery space. Designed by Gareth Beale and Jon Hook, the headsets are predominately constructed from plywood. These were laser cut by Mark Hough in the Department of Electronic Engineering.

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The headsets were then hand-finished by Nicole Beale and Gareth Beale.

The finished headset:

Image by Chris Streek.

VR scenes – visualisation

The visualisations were produced by Guy Schofield, and are designed as stylised cinematic vignettes into daily life at Torksey.

VR scenes – auralisation

Damian Murphy, Lewis Thresh and Kenneth Brown have worked to develop the audio content for the VR scenes. Lewis Thresh worked with students and staff from Department of English and Related Literature and the Centre for Medieval Studies to record a Norse-speaking script that Julian Richards produced to accompany each of the four scenes. This dialogue has been supported with various sound design content that Lewis has prepared, such as ambiences, animals, and the sound of life in the camp, to complete the immersive experience of the VR scenes. Lewis and Ken worked to test and deliver these soundtracks binaurally, resulting in directional, interactive sound as the viewer moves their head, using headphones embedded in the headset. Damian and Lewis have taken elements of these soundtracks, together with additional location recordings, to build the soundscape heard in the room itself.

image by Chris Streek

Image by Chris Streek, York Museums Trust

Evaluation

The team conducted a series of evaluation activities for the VR installation, including working with visitors to the exhibition to reflect on the use of VR in a gallery space and a series of in-depth interviews with Viking archaeologists to evaluate the potential of VR for the presentation of research to public audiences.

Further details

Viking: Rediscover the Legend ran from 19th May to 5th November 2017 at the Yorkshire Museum, York.

Exhibition website: www.yorkshiremuseum.org.uk/exhibition/viking-rediscover-the-legend/

Media coverage

We’re delighted that the VikingVR exhibition has had good media coverage. A good place to start is the press release from the University of York: www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2017/research/virtual-reality-vikings/

Some of the articles about our work are listed below:

The Guardian

The Hindu

The BBC

The Daily Mail

The Observer

The History Channel

The Yorkshire Post

The York Press

York Mix

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