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Virtual Reality Blacksmith Project

Posted by: Editor / February 2nd, 2018 / 1565 Views / 0 comment(s)

By John Murray (Principal Lecturer – College of Science) – Staff Profile

The project

Dr Murray and his team, Andrew Cardwell and Liam Wilson, students in Games Computing at the University, received a Heritage Lottery Fund for a Virtual Reality blacksmith project, which aimed to revive the process of traditional blacksmith crafting techniques and craftsmanship for a new generation. The purpose of the virtual reality software is to allow schoolchildren to produce real blacksmith artefacts using the latest 3D-printer technology thanks to a grant of £31,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The project was created by the  University of Lincoln in partnership with Chain Bridge Forge in Spalding; an early 19th-century blacksmith’s workshop that has served as a museum and heritage centre since 2011. It will provide a 21st Century take on blacksmithing by developing a ‘virtual craft simulator’. The project aims to revive the process of crafting techniques and craftsmanship for a new generation. Developing bespoke software and integrating human motion capture tracking sensors, users will be able to create their own artefact which can then be ‘printed’ as a keepsake.Heritage crafts played an important role for the local community, but many, including blacksmithing, have been in decline since the early 20th century. It is hoped this project will pass on the knowledge and skills that were held by blacksmiths to help conserve the craft.

“The technology will teach the schoolchildren how to perform blacksmith tasks, giving them tips and allowing them to ‘work’ the material. The system would then 3D print their artefact as a memento of their crafting work. It is hoped that this would preserve the heritage for future generations. The long-term aim is to apply this technology to simulate all heritage crafts, such as pottery or materials.” (Dr. John Murray, University of Lincoln)

The simulator will first be placed in the Forge at Chain Bridge in spalding but will then be showcased at major UK museums and heritage centres before being available for loan to schools. This opportunity also allows for some of the funding to be used to train 30 University of Lincoln students as blacksmiths to guide school children through the process.

“We aim to allow people to try blacksmithing for themselves without the need to use dangerous and heavy equipment, or indeed without many years training as an apprentice. This project will allow schools to bring back exposure of these crafts to pupils in a new, modern and safe way.” (Geoff Taylor, Chain Bridge Forge)

Award

On Friday 9th November 2017, Dr John Murray of the School of Computer Science, University of Lincoln, attended the East Midlands Heritage Awards 2017. The Virtual Reality Blacksmith project was shortlisted for an innovation award.  The project won the award in partnership with the Blacksmith museum Friends of Chain Bridge Forge in Spalding, Lincolnshire.

A short clip from the blacksmith simulator can be seen below.

Heritage crafts played an important role for the local community, but many, including blacksmithing, have been in decline since the early 20th century. The project will hopefully pass on the knowledge and skills that were held by blacksmiths to help conserve the craft.

Geoff Taylor, from Chain Bridge Forge, said: “We aim to allow people to try blacksmithing for themselves without the need to use dangerous and heavy equipment, or indeed without many years training as an apprentice. This project will allow schools to bring back exposure of these crafts to pupils in a new, modern and safe way.”

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