Digital walking trail brings Omagh's past to life

To show Omagh in County Tyrone, a digital trail has been created.

Digital walking trail brings Omagh's past to life

To show Omagh in County Tyrone, a digital trail has been created.

This is the first place in the UK that has been digitally transformed as part of StoryTrails.

People can discover six decades of Omagh's history by using virtual and augmented reality.

Digital objects can be seen on a walking path through the town center via a mobile screen with links to audio stories and archive film.

Prof Will Saunders, the project's creative director, said that it was "where past, present and future all collide at your local library".

He said, "It's like a history lesson, the most interesting geography trip, it is the best form of day-out you can possibly have using the latest technologies,"

"We have transformed Omagh with virtual reality and archive from both the BBC and the British Film Institute.

"We have created a huge new Omagh map using LiDAR 3D scanning, and we've created an historical mobile augmented reality trail which tells Omagh's story from the past."

Prof Saunders stated that the internet is moving from a 2D experience into 3D. It was crucial that the new technology be accessible.

He said, "Through the project, we hope that what we can accomplish is to make the magic 3D internet accessible for audiences free of charge in the places they live," he continued.

A virtual map of Omagh has been created using 3D models from local landmarks like St Lucia Barracks.

Listen to Cat Brogan's stories through the map. She wanted to share the diversity of voices within the area.

She told BBC News NI, "As someone from Omagh it was so wonderful being able to bring back my skills and be able speak to the people from my home and also highlight new communities that've made Omagh their own home."

These stories combine nostalgia with modern stories about what it's like to live in Omagh today.

Although many people still remember the 1998 bombing as the most atrocious of the Troubles', Cat stated that "that shouldn’t be the only thing we think about when we interact with someone from Omagh."

She stated that it was important to consider how to tell a story about a place, but also to look at it from the point of view of its people.

She said, "We need Omagh people to be able say this is Omagh, this my experience and to be heard in this new way that introduces exciting technology and brings them slap bang in the 21st century."

Dermot Devlin, a Greencastle disability rights activist, has been made into a digital character in order to tell his story.

He described it as "very odd" and likened the experience to watching himself in a virtual reality world to Inception, a sci-fi movie.

He said, "I knew it would be 3D when it was filming, but I didn't know what it was going look like so it is quite exciting."

He stated that stories should challenge stereotypes and perceptions.

"Even though the stories of individuals are very different, they all have very similar stories that can be shared with everyone else. Despite being very different, we are all very similar."

According to Jim O'Hagan, chief executive of Libraries NI, the technology "offers new ways to tell stories to engage different audience, especially younger audiences."

He said, "It absolutely draws you into it, you become part of the story. It's almost like you're immersed in it, and that's why the technology is so exciting."

UNBOXED: Creativity is a UK-wide celebration for creativity in 2022.

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