Category Archives: St Andrews Cathedral

This new paper in the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research provides a nice overview of “Virtual Archaeology in Second Life and OpenSimulator” and they are kind enough to feature lots of the stuff we have been doing too :)

Here is a link to the paper followed by the abstract:

http://journals.tdl.org/jvwr/index.php/jvwr/article/view/7047scriptorium_001_small

“Traditional approaches to virtual archaeology include dealing with research methods to capture information from heritage sites, creating models out of that information and how to present them to the public; these are intense technical procedures which might be too costly for some types of history or heritage-based projects. Virtual worlds allowed new types of models of/for heritage sites to be produced and disseminated at a fraction of the cost.
Second Life®, and its open source counterpart, OpenSimulator, are virtual world platforms with user-generated content. 3D models are created in real time and instantly rendered for all visitors. This allows amateurs and researchers create their own virtual archaeology projects easily and with few costs, and to have the resulting models immediately available to a vast community of users. This article presents an overview of four different approaches to virtual archaeology projects that are present in these platforms and that have been publicly discussed and analyzed; in particular, the last type shows a novel approach to virtual archaeology which is not found in other platforms, and explains how researchers have managed to extend the concept to new areas and develop methodologies to incorporate the validation of historical accuracy to encompass these areas.”

Let’s Talk Virtual Worlds With Nils Koesters

Hello Nils,

Can you tell us a little about yourself:

I have a PhD in Computational and Mathematical Evolutionary and Ecological Modelling from Stirling University.

My undergraduate studies included zoology, ecology, landscape engineering, recreation park planning and wild animal biology.

My Post Doc was at the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of St Andrews working with Bayesian Statistics. During this time I programmed a Game called Whale Quest.

After my Post Doc I worked in Virtual Landscape Programming and worked on presenting the Dalriada Project (Crinan Canal and Templewood) in C++. I implemented the then “hip” Wii mote and touch screens etc. into these apps.

How long you have been interested in Virtual Worlds?

More or less since the first programs I worked on. My father was a civil engineer involved in computing in the 70’s. He ran what I guess was a HP 9000 HP-UX (http://bitsavers.informatik.uni-stuttgart.de/pdf/hp/21xx/poyner1.htm) on which a 3D representation of the Space Shuttle was possible. http://www.flickr.com/photos/btl/1601785146/

My first contact with a proper interactive 3D Virtual World was Descent a video game released in 1994.

My recent interest was sparked when a Research Fellow at Maths and Stats was interested in making a Game to attract school leavers. I realised the idea by making contact with Dundee and programmed the actual game in Shockwave Lingo.


How did you hear about the Open Virtual Worlds group?

Via the https://www.facebook.com/OpenVirtualWorlds which my partner made me aware of.

Describe the project area you are currently working on.

I program the approximately 35 Canons that once lived in St Andrews Cathedral. These Non Player Characters (NPCs) need a distinct set of behaviours.

The historical archives tell us that each Canon had his own tasks and lived within the church hierarchy. The intention is to reflect this in the NPCs that users meet and interact with in the Virtual Cathedral reconstruction.

What is the most interesting project you have worked on?

Given the intended scope and ambition of the project, I would say this.

You have been testing your work within the cathedral reconstruction, what is your favourite area within the cathedral?

I love the long hall. The nave and choir leading down to the chapel.

What aspects have proved challenging to date?

Not working directly in St Andrews. Certain styles of communication are essential in project delivery.

Without any constraints in time and expense which historical scene would you recreate?

Probably the Battle of Stirling Bridge. I developed a Wii Remote controlled William Wallace in my last project at Stirling University

Where can we see some images or movies relating to the work you have carried out?
http://www.ruwpa.st-and.ac.uk/whalequest/index.php?option=com_contentamp;task=view&id=1&Itemid=2

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHYavjcZRDg&feature=plcp

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxUH7rWYZkA&feature=plcp

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uF7Mpka0xmo&feature=plcp

Do you have any technology concerns or predictions?

I would describe Opensim as a Communication Engine as opposed to a Presentation Engine (many Game Engines, Unity3d, CryEngine, Unreal Engine) this means the strength of the engine is in the interaction of characters with each other. I have therefore already developed a module for Opensim that implements Brain Computer Interfacing into the Opensim World. If one could follow this line of work one could enable many aspects of non-verbal communication into the Virtual World.

I hope the future will bring a more standardised experience for virtual world Users. Depending on the Browser and machine the experience can be very different for current users. Since the hardware requirements of 3D Worlds are more demanding than those for 2D browsers this inhibits a universal experience.

Thanks Nils, we look forward to demoing your NPC research in the very near future.

The Madras Experience

Pupils from Madras College in St Andrews had an opportunity to interact with the virtual reconstruction of St Andrews Cathedral earlier this month.

After classroom presentations on Monday and Tuesday, pupils used the 3D reconstruction to complete a task sheet on Wednesday and Thursday to reveal interesting facts about the cathedral, medieval characters and lifestyles.

Robert the Bruce was in-world to provide clues and lead the way for lost pilgrims. After completing the quest, pupils provided three imaginative words to describe the reconstruction. The tag cloud below highlights the most popular words.

Outwith the scheduled sessions pupils and staff had the opportunity to drop in for free form explorations. The sessions proved very popular and created much excitement within the Library where the event was taking place. Prizes were supplied by the Open Virtual Worlds Group for the most imaginative words.

Last week pupils visited the cathedral monument remains enabling them to compare this with the 3D reconstruction and gain a new perspective on its scale and magnificence.

Thanks to Bruce and Maggie for organising the timetable of events and Liz and Todd for their enthusiasm and help in the Library.

Open Virtual Worlds News

What’s happening in Open Virtual Worlds?

The Palace and the Cathedral go to Paris. The 3D reconstruction of Linlithgow Palace and St Andrews Cathedral will feature at the Immersive Education Initiative (IED) Paris Summit later this month.

CJ and John will be at MetaMeets “The Art of Creation : Virtuality meets Reality” 2012 in Holland.

John’s Routing Island world was in action with MSc students undertaking a Networks and Distributed Systems module.



Madras College Pupils had classroom presentations and group based sessions interacting with the Cathedral reconstruction before scheduled visits to the monument.

The group had an exhibition at Digidoc 2012 and again at a Scottish Association Of Teachers Of History SATH conference in Edinburgh.

The week ends with meetings relating to Archaeology at St Andrews and more educational initiatives with Education Scotland in Edinburgh. Updates to follow in due course.

Sarah Kennedy: Xposé her starter for 10

1. How long you have been a Research Assistant in the school? since 2007, the first project I worked on was the 3D reconstruction of a Greek Basilica for the School of Classics department as part of the L.A.V.A project http://lava.cs.st-andrews.ac.uk/

2. Describe some of the reconstruction projects you are currently working on. I am currently working on a few projects: we are working with Education Scotland and Historic Scotland to create an historically accurate reconstruction of Linlithgow Palace as it would have stood in its prime. I am also working in conjunction with Prof Richard Fawcett from the History Dept in reconstructing an historically accurate 3D St Andrews Castle from the 1520s during the time of James Beaton, as well as a 3D version of St Salvators Chapel before its radical alterations in the 1760s and 70s.

3. What is the most interesting part of the reconstruction and interpretation process? My favourite project so far would have to be building the 3D virtual reconstruction of St Andrews Cathedral, as I grew up here in St Andrews and was very familiar with the monument, so learning more about the history and architecture of the Cathedral was really interesting, you get a real sense of the grandeur and scale of the Cathedral within the virtual environment.

4. Can you tell us your favourite area within the palace or the cathedral reconstruction? It would probably have to be the view from the nave looking west down to the choir and presbytery.

5. What sites or monuments have you visited during your reconstruction work? Lots, it has become a bit of a bus-mans holiday situation.

6. What is the most unusual artefact you have produced this week? An artillery piece for the blockhouse battlements of the castle reconstruction.

7. What are the challenging aspects in terms of objects or viewer software ? Vaulted ceilings are quite tricky to replicate in the 3D modeling environment and some of the more intricate carvings, though I’m sure a stonemason would tell you the same thing. Viewer software is improving all the time, which is great as it makes these educational environments more accessible to everyone.

8. Without any constraints in time and expense which historical building or site would you bring back to life? Ultimately it would be great to bring all the St Andrews reconstructions together in one big virtual map, including the Cathedral, Castle, St Salvators, Blackfriars Chapel and the town ports to make a 3D interactive visual teaching aid for our town’s history.

9. How long does it take to create stained glass windows? Could you describe the main considerations? The main consideration with all the building is to get them as accurate as possible as to how they would have been, so I consult with historical experts on each project. There are many styles of window tracery so the main thing is to make sure I am building the right one.

10. Where will we find your avatar today? 1318

Virtual worlds news round-up

What’s been happening in virtual worlds research at St Andrews?

Summer dissertations ended in August. Six students completed dissertations focusing on virtual world resources using OpenSim.

We had great fun supervising the students, and thank them for all their hard work.

Dissertation Titles:

  • A Toolkit for Managing Open Virtual World Grids
  • Multimedia and Interactivity in Virtual Worlds using a Reconstruction of Linlithgow Palace
  • Educational Environments: A Virtual Resource for Computer Networking
  • Routing Island: Internet Routing in a Virtual World
  • A virtual reconstruction of St Andrews Castle
  • Virtual St Andrews: Virtualising the Libraries Special Collections

Summer dissertation students


Pictures of the students at their poster demo sessions can be viewed on the open virtual worlds facebook page.

After our fun visit to Linlithgow Academy and our participation at Sensation’s Create and Inspire event earlier this year we have set up a facebook page and received a number of requests for images, stories and attendance at future events.

We have Dr. Nils Koesters voluntarily working on animated characters for the cathedral and Debbie Wright continues to work on Non Player characters for Linlithgow

Look out for virtual worlds in Scotland History magazine in the Jan/Feb issue.

Families of undergraduate students will also read about the cathedral in Link the bi-annual newsletter sent out by the University.

Cathedral Reconstruction


The next event will take place in conjunction with Madras College and Historic Scotland, where the cathedral reconstruction will help support their Social Studies component within the Curriculum for Excellence. More on this in October/November.

Projects Collage

Look out for updates on the Kinect and Virtual Time Window research on John’s Blog and Cj’s website.