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UEA and Norwich HEART use video game technology to create 3D map of Norwich controlled at wave of a hand

Norwich HEART's Mike Loveday, left pictured with Andy Day and some of the latest computer generated historic walk throughs involving avatars. Photo: Steve Adams

Norwich HEART's Mike Loveday, left pictured with Andy Day and some of the latest computer generated historic walk throughs involving avatars. Photo: Steve Adams

The latest computer game technology is being used to bring the ancient streets of Norwich to life.

Visitors will soon be able to virtually time travel at the wave of a hand deep into the city’s proud past by controlling a 3D screen, using similar technology to a Nintendo Wii.

The map which should be put in The Forum by the summer detects movement in front of it meaning tourists will be able to point at attractions on the map, and a 3D model of it will pop out.

The project, set up by the UEA and heritage group Norwich HEART, is called HistOracle and is the latest in a partnership which started in 2004.

Professor Andy Day, from the university’s School of Computing Sciences, said: “Computer graphics being used for heritage is becoming a big thing and the close collaboration between science and history is unusual.”

As part of the partnership the Norwich 12 buildings are all being mapped and modelled with their own talking characters who step out of paintings and statues like Harry Potter characters.

At Dragon Hall, for example, a dragon flies down from the rafters to talk about the building while at City Hall the famous lions come to life.

Six buildings have been done, with six left to do - next on the list is the Great Hospital, with each building taking about three months to complete.

Michael Loveday, chief Executive of Norwich HEART, said the talking avatars were a great way to get children interested in history.

He said: “It is really popular and very positive because it takes something that is hard to teach - history - and it turns it into something popular and accessible.”

The government’s Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) awarded £200,000 of funding to the project in 2010.

It has meant that anyone will be able to view a 3D model of how Norwich has changed from Anglo Saxon times and through the medieval period.

Norwich Castle has also got involved with Prof Day’s team recreating the trial and death of one of its most famous prisoners - the murderer James Rush who was hung in 1849 for killing the Recorder of Norwich and his son at Stanfield Hall, near Wymondham.

Norwich’s example is also being followed by our twin city Koblenz, which has been reconstructed on computers so people can see how it looked before it was destroyed in the second world war.

The project’s first avatar was former mayor Sir John Pettus which was given a rapturous reception when Mr Loveday took the technology to Richmond in Virginia to show descendants of the Pettus family.

•To find out more log on to www.heritagecity.org or www.norwich12.co.uk

•Do you have a story for the Evening News? Contact reporter Tom Bristow on 01603772313 or email tom.bristow@archant.co.uk

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