Computational Foundry uses Virtual Reality to bring the past to life for Man Engine’s Swansea tour

On Thursday 12th April the largest mechanical puppet ever constructed in Britain arrived in Swansea, and the Computational Foundry was proud to help bring the rich mining heritage of South Wales to life as part of the celebrations.

Lecturers from the Computational Foundry encouraged visitors to look into the past using a virtual telescope at the National Waterfront Museum and at the Hafod Copperworks, two of the stops on Man Engine’s journey through Swansea. The huge mechanical puppet, which resembles a giant miner, visited seven of south Wales’s most important industrial heritage locations for a week of events.

Dr Simon Robinson, Computer Science lecturer at Swansea University’s Computational Foundry, explains: “We designed this ‘telescope’ so that people at the event could look through the lens – which looks like a traditional telescope you often see at public viewpoints. But instead it displays a virtual reality scene of how the Hafod Copperworks used to look in its prime, when it was the seat of the industrial revolutions in the 19th century.

 “We feel honoured to tell a part of the story of the industrial revolution in Wales, and to use virtual reality to bring the past to life for everyone who came to enjoy the show.” 

Swansea University’s new £31 million Computational Foundry facility is currently being built at the University’s Bay Campus and is due for occupation in September 2018. A global destination for computational research and teaching, it is backed by £17.1million from the European Regional Development Fund through Welsh Government.

Professor Matt Jones, Head of the College of Science at Swansea University, adds: ““Swansea was the seat of the industrial revolution, and the Hafod was the site where copper - the fabric of everything from buildings to industries all across the world – was processed.

“The Computational Foundry is about a new material that’s going to go out and change the world dramatically. It’s going to fashion new forms of digital material and make Swansea proud about its role in global society.”

The Man Engine’s journey through Swansea celebrates 300 years of copper smelting in Swansea, collecting copper ore from the docks and taking it through Swansea’s city centre to be smelted at Hafod-Morfa Copperworks for an unforgettable after-dark fire and light show.‌

Swansea University is working in collaboration with a number of stakeholders for Man Engine’s Welsh Tour, including Welsh Government’s historic environment service (Cadw), Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales, local authorities, Head 4 Arts and Golden Tree Productions.