The main goal of the project VirtualMine is to increase the awareness among local community about the importance of raw materials and its possible use for better development of the European regions. Furthermore, the project is to popularize mining among the general public, especially children and students who start to develop their path career, as well as to show the importance of the minerals in our modern world. The main effort will be put on creating the conditions to convey knowledge on raw material as a key to the development of the circular knowledge-based economy in the most effective way. The results of the project will be easily implemented in different locations across Europe.
For further information:
The official website of the project: https://virtualmine.net/
YouTube VirtualMine Project: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHzqffGgr1YiKKuWXbb4zNA
Entities that are involved in the project represent six European countries: Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Ukraine, Greece and Spain. The consortium gathers partners with different and complementary expertise and backgrounds, such as:
- Competences and knowledge in the field of education, mining, entrepreneurship;
- Expertise in Virtual and Augmented Reality;
- Partners holding museums and exhibition rooms
Figure 1 - Partners distribution across Europe
The original scope was to prepare a 3D visualization of the mining exploration process. Therefore, the project implementation plan was divided into three parts:
- “VR immersive demo” (3D demonstration) teleportation to virtual world;
- exhibition (display with real exhibits using multimedia material and applications); and,
- workshops (classes in the laboratory for target audience: groups of pupils – primary school, secondary group 7-12-16 and 19-24 students of universities)
The main purpose of the 3D demonstration is to show changes taking place in mining over centuries. By wearing a commercial VR headset (HTC Vive), the user is “transferred” to the virtual world of an ancient (former) mine. The user's journey begins in an old narrow underground excavation and finishes in a modern mine. During this time travel, the user takes part in three scenes representing mining at a different stage of development. The participant traveling through adits can experience how the mining techniques, the exploitation methods, the lighting systems, the size of the passage and the mining tools (equipment) have changed across times. The transition (teleportation) between "scenes" is achieved through a symbolic "Gate of Time". The player has to perform different tasks in order to discover and open the gate and move to the next part of the virtual mine.
In the context of this project, CeDInt-UPM has worked actively in the development of several educational tools and applications to help students of different group ages understand the importance of raw materials, the processes involved in order to obtain them and how they can be used to produce assets in our everyday lives. As part of this project, the contents developed have been shown and lectured to different audiences in educational workshops by the researchers of CeDInt, bot at our facilities as well as at the Technical School of Mine and Energy of Madrid.
Marcelo Jorissen AR application
The “Marcelo Jorissen” mine is an experimental, educational coal mine built inside the Technical School of Mine and Energy of Madrid. It consists of a relatively small facility (approximately 50 meters long and 15 meters deep) that represents the topology of a typical underground mine used to extract coal from deep rocks and veins. It contains all the necessary elements present in a real mine used to extract coal: a head-frame, a shaft, adits, two galleries in different levels, and horizontal and vertical extraction vein, etc. The AR application aims at presenting a 3D virtual reconstruction of the mine under different points of view and by providing related educational content to its users. In particular, the following scenarios have been prepared:
- City View: this scene presents the mine in the context of the city where it is located. The user can interact by showing/hiding the different levels of the mine as well as the city buildings to see the topology of the mine with more detail;
- Topology View: it consists of a perspective view of the mine with the different parts highlighted and labeled. By tapping any of these parts, the user can get more information about their functions in the real environment as well as observe photos and videos taken in situ.
- Head-frame: in this scene, the student is shown an animation of how the head-frame works. This way it is possible to understand how was the process to transport resources and people from/to the mine using the shaft.
- AR first person visit: here the user is invited to navigate and explore the mine as if it were in a first-person game. Fingers are used to move forward/backward and rotate the camera view.
Figure 2 - Screenshots of the AR application. Left: the head-frame animation; Right: Topology view with the lower level selected to get more details about it
VR visit to the Marcelo Jorissen Mine
As part of the aforementioned application, it was necessary to model the geometry and create the materials and textures to represent the mine virtually (as in a videogame). This model was intended first for an AR application (that usually runs on a mobile device) so the level of detail was optimized to reduce resource-consumption requirements. For the VR version, we definitely improved the overall quality of the models (especially in terms of textures and illumination), so that the user could have a much more realistic perception. Moreover, the navigation interface was greatly enhanced by the implementation of natural interaction (by means of a Kinect device) to navigate inside the scene using gestures and body postures.
Figure 3 - Navigation in the mine using: natural interaction and a stereoscopic view (left image); a flystick in an immersive CAVE (right image)
Open Field Mixed Reality Educational Tool
The main goal of this application has been to enable the exploration of former mine open-field locations, so that students can learn about the different areas regarding the process of mining as well as points of interest related with the sector. To explore the environment, the application provides a virtual compass that targets the locations of interest using the GPS signal. By means of a map, the user can also draw the path to follow (virtually represented over the video stream captured by the camera) and make drawings and annotations. Whenever they reach a certain point of interest, a virtual model of the former mine facility is represented and further information can be accessed with AR. This information can be either text, images (fixed and 360º) and real recorded videos.
A full editor tool complements this application. With it, developers can generate their own scenarios by providing specific content and defining points of interest in a given area. Actually, it is possible to upload AR markers, set contents descriptions and media and transform a 3D model for each location of interest (position, scale and rotation) that will be shown when the student approaches the area. The generated new content can be uploaded to a server and used afterwards by the MR application in any mobile device.
Figure 4 - The interface of the MR tool for open-space exploration
Life without Raw Materials educational game
This serious game deals with the importance of raw materials in everyday life. The player is a boy that wakes up in the middle of the countryside because everything from his world has totally disappeared. His mission is to rebuild everything as it was, by finding, extracting, collecting and processing the necessary raw materials. Five missions are foreseen to build a house, the heating system, a computer, a mobile phone and a car, respectively. Each objective requires the player to find a certain amount of raw materials related to the object of his mission, build the correct type of a mine, select the appropriate extraction method and process the resources accordingly. In this adventure, the player can count on a professor explaining why or why not the players' choices are correct or incorrect. This way, students are given the opportunity to learn and understand all the necessary steps behind the production of everyday common objects.
Figure 5 - Some screenshots of the Life Without Raw Materials game (available in 7 different languages at the project website)
“Kobold the treasurer” - AR comic
Kobold is a comic targeting primary school students about a space creature that, due to his longevity, has experienced the evolution of Earth throughout history, even before humans appeared. The reader is invited to discover how raw materials originated on Earth and how humanity learnt to find, extract and process the resources to produce tools, weapons and useful assets. CeDInt-UPM has implemented in the context of this project an AR comic version where the reader can discover additional content hidden in each page, either by interacting with Kobold in small mini games or watching animations and videos. The comics, translated to nine different languages, and the AR application are currently available at the project website.