Curtin embarks on a shipwreck recreation voyage

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// Soon you’ll be able to study a shipwreck, without setting foot in the ocean…

Fascinated by the hidden depths of the sea and the ship wreckages that have been left there? Disappointed that you cannot see them without a pesky scuba certification? Well, we are to be foiled by the ocean no more!

Thanks to Curtin University researchers, shipwrecks will soon be available to explore in detail without stepping foot in the water.

This major project will allow important underwater cultural heritage sites, such as historic shipwrecks, to be recreated as immersive 3D virtual experiences.

Lead by manager of Curtin’s HIVE (Hub for Immersive Visualisation and eResearch) and researcher Associate Professor Andrew Woods, the project will use advanced technology to photogrammetric 3D reconstruction techniques to generate complex digital models of shipwreck sites from hundreds of thousands of underwater images.

“This painstaking process will allow vivid and immersive experiences to be created, to allow the incredible stories of these historic underwater wrecks to be explained,” Professor Woods said.

“The sites which will be used as test datasets are some of the most historically significant Australian shipwreck sites, including HMAS Sydney (II) and HSK Kormoran from World War II; and the submarine HMAS AE1 from World War I.”

Associate Professor Andrew Woods, Curtin University

Key collaborators on the project include the Western Australian Museum and the Australian National Maritime Museum, which was recently awarded $460,000 in Federal Government funding by the Australian Research Council.

How does this work?

Using deep-water remotely operated vehicles fitted with digital still and video cameras, detailed images of the shipwrecks are taken. These images are now being processed into 3D models using the power of the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre’s Magnus supercomputer.

“Ultimately, this project will allow these important phases of Australian history to be made available to the general public as an interactive experience,” Andrew said.

“Shipwreck sites are often the subject of considerable fascination and mystery, and Virtual Reality technologies offer huge potential to reveal the stories of these sites in a dynamic and engaging way for museum audiences.

Associate Professor Andrew Woods, Curtin University

“We’re really looking forward to the outcome of this project, being able to share the experience of virtually visiting the wreck sites of HMAS Sydney (II) and HMAS AE1, and to help people learn more about these important parts of Australian maritime history which are otherwise disappearing from living memory.”

PhD opportunity to di(v)e for

Two full-time study scholarships for PhD students are on offer for those interested in the project. Theses are to focus on the topics of ‘Evaluating Virtual Heritage Experiences’ and ‘Improving Photogrammetric 3D Reconstruction’.

Professor Erik Champion, UNESCO Chair of Cultural Heritage and Visualisation from the School of Media, Creative Arts and Social Inquiry, who is a project Chief Investigator and will be a PhD supervisor for the ‘Evaluating Virtual Heritage Experiences’ topic, said the project presents outstanding learning opportunities.

“This is an exciting chance to be part of a novel project that can elevate the public experience. In particular, the PhD student I will supervise will help evaluate methods to engage the public with interactive media in a museum setting, and conduct workshops with museum experts and with participants to test open ended games that allow for interactive learning.”

Professor Erik Champion, Project Chief Investigator.
Dr Andrew Hutchison, Dr Andrew Woods and Dr Petra Helmholz

Many schools of interest

Researchers from all fields of study are lending their expertise to the project. In addition, the project is recruiting two staff with software development expertise who will use their skills to perform large-scale 3D reconstruction processing.

Researchers involved with the project include Curtin University’s Dr Petra Helmholtz and Dr David Belton, both from the School of Earth and Planetary Sciences. Professor Derek Lichti from the University of Calgary will lend his expertise in geomatic engineering. From the Western Australian Museum is Adjunct Professor Alec Coles, Catherine Belcher, Dr Ross Anderson, Danny Murphy and Ian Thilthorpe. Michael Harvey and Dr James Hunter from the Australian National Maritime Museum are also to assist.

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Images Supplied. Curtin University is a sponsor of Startup News.