It’s been an amazing journey: from our initial idea of improving accessibility through Virtual Reality to the exciting launch of our pioneering 360-degree VR tour of Geevor Tin Mine in Cornwall. Working with Heritage Ability, we have created a VR tour of this World Heritage Site that gives access to a wider audience to parts of the eighteenth century mine-workings and mill, in their breath-taking setting upon and beneath cliffs near Land’s End.
Geevor VR Tour
As the film above shows, the VR tour can be viewed through an Oculus headset, and opens up the spectacular mine to a greater number of visitors. We used cutting edge technology to create an experience which is as close to an actual tour as possible without it being the real thing. And, in some ways it is even more dramatic as the tour features “flythrough” footage of the tunnels and the mills as well as amazing 360 aerial views of the cliff-top site – all with a tour-guide voice-over and optional subtitles – to replicate the journey for those who cannot make it themselves. Part of Heritage Ability’s Virtual Heritage Project, the tour was made possible with £5000 awarded by the National Lottery.
We’re working with heritage sites across the South West with an aim to achieve Accessible Heritage for Everyone. That doesn’t just relate to people with physical disabilities but also to those with anxiety, mental health and learning disabilities, or simple geographical limitations.
Maryann Soper, Heritage Ability.
Tour Launch: Making the Headlines
The tour was launched at Geevor Museum to an audience which included local press and dignitaries. And we are excited to say this ground-breaking application wowed our launch audience in the way we hoped it would. We asked 84 year old Elvia Elbro, whose family worked the mine, to try out the tour. She remembered visits to the mine when younger. But unfortunately, in recent years has been unable to access the narrower and stepped parts of the mines. The opportunity to experience the mine tour was one that she really enjoyed, “Amazing…I felt as if I was there and yet I haven’t moved from this spot.”
The launch was the culmination of a project that is close to our hearts, so we were so pleased at its success, with the tour making the Western Morning News, as well as BBC and ITV, reaching greater audiences. See BBC online coverage here.
And for Soundview the Virtual Heritage Project provided an unmissable opportunity to use our expertise in VR film to help improve access, as our Managing Director Gareth Allen describes:
People encounter barriers to access on a daily basis. This is something we know from personal experience and we are passionate about. As soon as VR arrived on the market, we recognised its potential to break down those barriers and make less accessible places possible for more people. When we heard about Heritage Ability’s brilliant project we knew immediately we could make a perfect team.
Gareth Allen’s son Finley is a wheelchair user and was a key member of the consultation team. Among others, he advised throughout the project’s development, from start to finish. So we were particularly happy with his final verdict :
The Geevor VR tour is really cool, and I hope other attractions follow their example. It’s pretty disappointing when I go to places and find I just can’t access them. So the more of this the better – it’s fantastic.
We loved working on this project but for Soundview, this is just the beginning. In fact the potential of VR to improve access is enormous and the applications and technology evolve rapidly. It’s great to be at the cutting edge of improving access to destinations and experiences.