Walking through an underground system of tunnels, you see crumbling bricks that prop up the remains of an old fort. Built by the British in 1812, the fort was a base of defense against the invading Americans.
In collaboration with Parks Canada, Hamilton-based MellaniuM Virtual Reality is creating a virtual reality to allow anyone to explore the fort online.
Co-ordinated by Charles-Olivier Roy of Artisans du Passages in Quebec City, the Hamilton company was given photographs of the location and stitched them together into a threedimensional world from two-dimensional pictures.
“Parks Canada has been flying over the location with a plane that has an automated computer system that take pictures,” explained founder Mark Melaney. “They take pictures of gravel pits, the land and surrounding areas, and through those pictures sent to us, we’re able to ‘walk’ over it. Before they would have to send people out onto the field to hold a stick down before taking a picture.”
The virtual environment allows people to learn about historical facts and the area, he added.
Depending on the size of the project, it can take up to two to three weeks to create a new virtual world.
Melaney spent seven years studying architecture: three at Loyalist College in Belleville, Ont., before continuing four years of education at Ryerson University. He took two years to travel in between studying.
During his time in university, he learned how to use a program called Unreal Gaming Engine, which allowed creators to take absolute measurements of an object.
“People think that because this kind of information doesn’t exist in the gaming environment, it’s not available,” Melaney said. “However, with our program you can zoom into the finer details.”
As a bartender at Koi Sizzle, Melaney asked his bosses if he could create a virtual reality of the restaurant for his portfolio.
The stimulated online reality of the restaurant, located in Hess Village, allows visitors to walk around the restaurant and look at the selection of drinks, the fine details of art pieces, and even allows one to zoom into the menu to see what’s listed.
“This is a game environment but we took out the weapons and guns because I don’t want it to be a game,” he explained. “It’s about a learning experience, whether you’re learning about the environment or something else.”
It took about a month to create the Koi Sizzle virtual reality.
Once a person is logged in, they are assigned a random avatar with an opportunity to adjust features, clothing and gender, as well as height and weight.
Unlike Google Earth, where users are able to access Streetview and explore by themselves, this technology allows a user to share the space with other users. This provides the opportunity to interact and communicate with people around the world.
“We’re close to figuring out a way to be able to take a snapshot of your own face and implement it to become your own avatar,” Melaney said. “If you are in the same room as someone else, you can have a conversation with that person and ask what the place is like.”
MellaniuM also views virtual reality as an educational tool for students.
The future is bright for this type of technology, he said.
“Restaurants, bars, hotels, airports – who doesn’t want to familiarize yourself with the environment before you go there?” said Melaney.
Originally posted in Your Hamilton Biz.