An innovative new virtual reality project will bring to life the experiences of UK veterans, showcasing a variety of harrowing, humorous and emotional memories.
Their Memory, which has been developed in collaboration with Poppyscotland and Abertay University, will allow players to explore the real-life experiences of veterans across various major conflicts over the last century.
The project has been led by Dr Iain Donald, of Abertay’s School of Design and Informatics, along with research assistant Emma Houghton.
Remembering the Fallen
The immersive experience allows users to explore a virtual recreation of Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory, located in Edinburgh, with a series of artefacts featured throughout the factory.
Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory employs disabled ex-servicemen and women to hand-assemble around five million poppies and 15,000 wreaths every year.
The items all bare some significance to the veterans involved with the projects, including a poppy, a poppybox, letters and pictures from children, a model tank, a bullet and various other personal items.
Seven veterans engaged with the team from Abertay University, sharing a range of stories including experiences during battle, their reasons for enlisting and how they remember fallen comrades.
Once selected by the user, each item triggers an audio clip recorded by a veteran, describing the related memory. Video content produced by Poppyscotland is also available to the user as they explore the virtual area.
Dr Donald said the Abertay team was ‘delighted’ to have the opportunity to produce a unique platform through which the public can remember Britain’s fallen heroes.
“As one of the world’s leading computer games universities we regularly collaborate on industry-led and charity projects,” he said. “Their Memory is something very special.
He added: “We were delighted to be able to work with Poppyscotland and their brave veterans to produce this unique way of remembering those who gave up their lives in conflict.”
Alf Gibbons, a Royal Navy veteran from Newport, served as a Chief Petty Officer in the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm. Gibbons collaborated with the Abertay team along with John Sutherland, from Dundee, who served as a Private in the Black Watch.
Gibbons said: “We have been involved all the way along and now we’ve seen the finished project it has been great. No country should forget it’s past history and what people have had to do, both in previous and current generations, so it is important to carry on with remembrance.”
Speaking on the centenary of the end of the First World War, Sutherland commented: “It’s 100 years on now, so I think it’s very important to keep coming up with new ways of remembering those who gave up their lives.
“It was just a great thing to be involved in and I’ve really enjoyed working with the students.”
Working with Poppyscotland, the initial inspiration for the project was assessing how technology – and VR in particular – could be used to harness and recreate veterans’ memories.
The project was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Immersive Experiences scheme to deliver the prototype. The next stage aims to secure additional funding to further explore the impact this approach could have.
Gordon Michie, Head of Fundraising at Poppyscotland, said: “It is vital that we preserve and share the memories of veterans experiences so that they are understood and recognised for generations to come.
“Poppyscotland strives to be innovative in the way in which we do this, and utilising the latest virtual reality technology allows us to both reach new audiences and provide them with a truly immersive, memorable experience.”