Virtual Wembury - Now
The Virtual Wembury project has its roots firmly grounded in a hospital research project. A project that focuses on the development of simulated restorative environments and their effects on our feelings of well-being and the general state of our physical and mental health. Previous real-world restorative environment research suggests that the exposure of individuals to natural settings (the coast, countryside, forests, etc.) can reduce stress, improve feelings of well-being and help individuals to recover from fatigue following intensive mental activities. Restorative environments as simple as hospital window views onto garden-like scenes can also be influential in reducing recovery periods after surgery as well as the need for pain killing medication. Whilst the technology is still incapable of delivering real-world experiences, virtual restorative environments may help to provide views onto areas of natural beauty in settings, such as the hospital ward, an intensive care unit, or even an elderly care home, where individuals may not have access to such stimulation. The Birmingham research is also looking at how these virtual worlds could be further developed to include activities to help the seriously injured, (including amputees) such activities ranging from pedalo pedalling to hang-gliding, even virtual rock climbing!
Virtual Wembury was "constructed" using commercially available 3D geographical ("Digital Terrain Model") data, from getmapping.co.uk. The data effectively describe the undulating scenery of the region, from the hills to the cliffs, beach, and rocky outcrops. An area of 3.5km² was obtained, covering Wembury Bay itself (including the Great Mewstone Island), the coastal path west to Heybrook Bay and Renney Rocks and an area extending approximately 1km inland. In addition, a digital aerial photograph (12.5cm resolution) was used. Draped as a digital texture over the 3D terrain data, the aerial image provided a detailed visual "template" which was invaluable in helping to locate key natural and man-made features such as - trees, large plants, meadows, rocks, streams, buildings (including the Church dedicated to St Werburgh) and paths. A series of photographic, video and sound surveys were also conducted at the Wembury Bay site. Sounds of birdsong, waves, wind and footsteps have been programmed into the virtual model to create a dynamic "soundscape" which varies depending on the user's location. Time of day (24-hour day-night cycle) and weather effects have also been included.
Virtual Wembury - Then
Contact with local historians and Wembury Village residents provided the opportunity to undertake this ambitious project. In 1909, a proposal was put before the UK,s House of Lords relating to the development of what could have become one of the most successful commercial docks in the country, rivalling other ports at London, Southampton and Liverpool. Had the proposal not failed, then Wembury Bay would have been changed forever, with the docks, railway and workers, houses decimating what is, today, one of the most attractive and popular coastal areas in the south west of the UK. The 3D model of the Dock area was constructed as part of a 2012 MSc student project and a commercially available 3D modelling toolkit (3ds max) was used to generate the forms of the two dock layout options, one based on a single, large land-locked area; the second comprising a number of "finger quays". The Virtual Wembury 3D model described above was used to provide geographical scaling during the construction of the virtual dock components. Given the lack of information relating to the Dock (as it never existed!), historical research had to be conducted using references to other UK docks, including Liverpool/Birkenhead, Southampton and the Port of London, together with Hull, Cardiff, Falmouth and Bristol, where the current Heritage Dock exhibits proved to be particularly useful.