Virtual Life in Ename

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Eham 1291 has animals, such as sheep and pigs, that are roaming around automatically with AI (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

In the first version of the Ename educational game – called Ename 1290 –  virtual animals where already present everywhere in the game, having some AI (artificial intelligence). One of the major improvements of the Eham 1291 game is the use of virtual humans. Although no dialogue can be started with these characters, they are influenced by the actions and decisions of the player(s) of the game.  We have introduced two kinds of interaction.

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When playing the game, you can end up at the pillory (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

The first kind are cutscenes, which in fact are small real-time movies that are played out as a result of an action of the player.  For example, if the player takes a certain object that he should not take away, the player is put at the pillory for theft, resulting in game over. This not only makes the players think about the rules of a medieval world but also shows the strict social control within a medieval village and the medieval juridical system.

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Medieval open-air court and pillory (image: Visual DImension bvba)

A guide playing this educational game with a group of children – target group for Eham 1291 are 10-12-year-olds – can expand on such aspects as other elements of justice are also visualised in the game such as the open air court benches (vierschaar).

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The carpenter finishes his beam… (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

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…but reacts if you interfere with his work (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

The second kind of interactions are changes in the behaviour of NPCs (non-player characters). For example, if you try to take the wooden beam the carpenter is finishing at the timber harbour, he will not only blame you for trying to take away this object, but also will give you extra information that is useful later on in the game.

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The ferryman gets you across the river Scheldt (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

You need to pay the ferryman to get over the river, but you also need to get back to the abbey to finish the game…

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3D digital goose ready for animation (3D model and images: Kvakling @TurboSquid)

Also animals are playing a crucial role in the game. For example, you only get free passage if you can divert the geese that block your way when leaving the abbey farm, without that you cannot finish the game.

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The animated geese at the abbey farm (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

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This work has been partially funded by the Flemish Ministry of Culture.

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VR tour of the Ename abbey gardens

On the recent Heritage Day in Flanders (Sept 10, 2017), we organised a unique guided tour on the archaeological site of Ename, using a virtual reality visualisation of the abbey gardens in 1663 and 1730.  Such a VR guided tour is one of the possible ways of providing GroupVR (see also our WTCB presentation earlier this year).

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Virtual reconstruction of the Ename abbey gardens in 1730 (image: © Visual Dimension bvba)

This virtual reconstruction of the abbey gardens in 1663 and 1730 uses spherical panoramas in a large number of points, allowing to go from one virtual location to the other and in this way, walking around in the gardens, admiring its (reconstructed) beauty from different points of view.

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Virtual reconstruction of the Ename abbey entrance in 1663 (image: © Visual Dimension bvba)

By walking around on the archaeological site in the same way, going from point to point in the physical space (indicated by traffic cones), a guide can explain how the abbey gardens looked like in a certain period, and the members of the guided group can see these virtual features through a cardboard VR viewer (in which they have put their smartphone) or on a tablet.

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 A guided tour on the archaeological site  VR using visualisation of a virtual reconstructions in 1663 and 1730 (photo: Veerle Delange) 

Although the cardboard viewer without strap gives the best results, it turned out that tablets are the easiest to use, as they require less configuration.  In any case, all participants to the six guided tours were very confident that they were much better experiencing the site and learning about its history.

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Participants to the guided tour were using both VR cardboard viewers and tablets (photo: Veerle Delange)

This approach is another way to implement GroupVR and turn 3D and VR into a support for site guides, not a replacement, with the additional benefit of social interaction and better communication between the members of the group.