A new immersive virtual reality (VR) experience is allowing members of the public to step back in time and explore the legendary Cutty Sark ship.

The iconic 19th century vessel has been recreated by experts at University of the West of Scotland’s Paisley campus (UWS) and Smartify, the arts and heritage app, on behalf of Royal Museums Greenwich.

The VR tour was developed using state-of-the-art 360 photos, 3D scanning, and drone photography, to accurately replicate the ship digitally in 3D while sections of the boat undergo repair. The tour can be accessed both from home, and at Cutty Sark in London via a QR code.

As well as providing digital access to the iconic tea clipper ship, the new VR tour includes items from the wider Cutty Sark collection which are not typically on view to the public.

Dr Marco Gilardi, Lead of the UWS Creative Computing Technologies Research Group in the School of Computing Engineering and Physical Sciences, and PI for the project, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to have been able to apply our research and expertise to bring Cutty Sark to life through VR and state of the art ‘immersive web’ technologies, allowing members of the public to explore this world-famous ship in a unique way.”

Cutty Sark, the fastest sailing ship of its time, was built in Dumbarton in 1869, and was one of the final clippers – ships designed for seasonal trade such as tea – to be built.

Emma Massoud, General Manager of Cutty Sark added: “The VR experience has been an incredible addition to our visitor experience, not only has this allowed our visitors to digitally access an area currently undergoing conservation but it also improves our access offer, with this area now being available for all to view.”

Thanos Kokkiniotis, Smartify CEO and Head of Product, said: ” Bringing part of Cutty Sark to life in virtual reality has been a truly gratifying journey. Witnessing the overwhelmingly positive response reaffirms our commitment to making heritage accessible worldwide. We’re thrilled that people, regardless of their location, can now embark on an immersive voyage through history.”

Cutty Sark reopened to the public in April 2012, marking a new chapter in the extraordinary life of the last surviving tea clipper and one of the world’s most famous ships. Visitors to Cutty Sark can venture aboard and beneath the beautiful three-masted clipper: walk along the decks in the footsteps of the merchant seamen who sailed her over a century ago; explore the hold where cargo was stored on voyages; and even walk underneath the 963-tonne ship in the dry berth below to view the elegant lines of her hull.

Cutty Sark is part of Royal Museums Greenwich which also incorporates the National Maritime Museum, the 17th-century Queen’s House and the Royal Observatory Greenwich. This unique collection of museums and heritage buildings form a key part of the Maritime Greenwich UNESCO World Heritage Site and is also a major centre of education and research. The mission of Royal Museums Greenwich is to enrich people’s understanding of the sea, the exploration of space, and Britain’s role in world history. For more information, visit www.rmg.co.uk

The project was made possible through Innovate UK’s flagship Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) scheme – a scheme which brings together universities and businesses to share knowledge and expertise.

The virtual tour is available to access here: https://ar.smartify.org/liverpoolhouse/index.html.

By Ricky Kelly

Main writer for Renfrewshire News

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