On March 16, 2019, the new Battery Aachen presentation at the Atlantikwall open-air museum in Raversyde, Belgium, opened for the public. Earlier posts in this blog described how we made the 3D virtual reconstruction for 1915 and 1917 of this unique German WW1 site. In this blog post, we describe how the 3D models of these virtual reconstructions were re-used in this new site presentation.
In the former house of the lighthouse operator, a small museum presentation has been created with outstanding objects. To show how the site appeared to French and British ships potentially attacking this coastal defence unit, a 3D model has been printed by Materialise derived from the 3D virtual reconstruction model.
A new outdoor model of Battery Aachen has been cast in concrete to help visitors understand the structure of the site, at the start of the new walking trail that shows the WW1 remains.
One of the guns of Battery Aachen has been cast in concrete on scale 1:1, based upon the 3D model of the gun in the virtual reconstruction. This mockup gun allows experiencing the size and emplacement of a gun in its bunker.
The individual visitor can use a tablet to learn about the site on selected spots. On each of these spots, the visitor can experience the site in 1917 and 1915 through virtual panoramas derived from the 3D reconstruction, complemented with text and a number of images and schematic animations.
The most important use of the 3D reconstruction is the virtual tour for guided groups. Up to 30 people can enter a bunker on the site to experience an interactive 3D visualisation of the site, presented by a guide.
The original 3D virtual reconstruction, made to produce rendered images, has been transformed into a real-time interactive 3D environment, in which a path system and several animations have been added.
The path system gives the guide an easy way to walk around in the virtual site of Battery Aachen in 1917 while talking and interacting with the visitors. The guide uses a games controller for navigation through the 3D model. We have implemented both the normal two-handed games approach but also a one-handed approach where the guide can use the free hand to gesture or indicate objects (for example with a laser pointer). The buttons on the controller implement specific functionalities: quit/resume the path, show the site from an elevated point of view, go quickly to a small number of predefined key locations or play specific animations at certain areas.
For example, when coming at one of the guns, the guide can enter the ammunition bunkers underneath, showing how grenades and charges were prepared for firing. Although these bunkers have been restored, they remain inaccessible for the visitors, while the handling of ammunition needs to be virtual anyway. Also, the operation of the unique ammunition elevator has been reconstructed virtually.
After the virtual presentation, the group visits the site, walking the same path as in the virtual tour, while the guide can relate specific locations to the 3D presentation.