The geological story of the Black Country started 400 million years ago, and is a story not only of geological evolution, but technological evolution with the advances made in the industrial revolution utilising the wealth of resources.
We celebrate this evolution within the geopark but as well as celebrating the past, we also like to look to the future, for opportunities to use new and innovative digital technologies that can help us bring our history to life, and to communicate the offer of the Black Country UNESCO Global Geopark to a wider audience.
One way we’ve done this is to use Matterport camera technology to create a 3D interactive model of the Black Country Geopark headquarters at the Archives in Dudley. Increasing the accessibility and digital content of this geosite was especially useful during national lockdowns but will continue to provide an opportunity for visitors to see what is on offer.
Originally developed in the US for the real estate market the Matterport camera uses IR camera technology to capture 2D photography and 3D data from sites, whilst automatically stitching them together into an immersive 3D model. The technology is now seeing wider uses in industries such as construction, engineering and manufacturing, as well as within the visitor economy.
We then sought to bring this digital space to life. Using the tagging function we brought in external digital content into the space in form of videos, pictures, weblinks and descriptive text. Enabling visitors to explore the space and learn key information from the exhibitions which they may not see during a physical site visit.
Other added benefits is the ability to track the impact and visibility, to date the space has been seen 365 visits by 315 unique visitors.
Digital technologies were also used to create the animation that can be viewed on the main page or below. This was created using Unity Game Engine, building worlds that (with a bit of artistic licence) bring to life what the Black Country would have looked like through its geological evolution. It is difficult to imagine, standing on our busy urban streets, that the Black Country would once have been a shallow coral sea, or a massive jungle, or on the edge of the ice sheets with mammoth roaming about.
From Unity, the video itself was also captured in 360-degree, which allows the viewer to watch the video in all directions, and if watching on a VR headset, or google cardboard and a smartphone.
Hopefully the world-building won’t end here, and at some point other parts of our past will be created, either relating to the Black Country, or to geological eras represented in other Geoparks.