(Now you don't have to be near Colossus to experience it - but it doesn't do any harm!)
Immersive virtual reality technologies are bringing the story of the world’s first electronic computer Colossus and the breaking of Lorenz Hitler’s most secret cipher to a wider public. The Colossus VR experience is being revealed to visitors throughout the Summer Bytes family festival running on Thursday to Sunday afternoons until 27 August 2017.
Web and mobile developers, Entropy Reality, have brought vividly to life the experience of visiting the world-famous Colossus and Tunny galleries at The National Museum of Computing on Bletchley Park. By donning a virtual reality headset, users can ‘walk’ around the galleries and immerse themselves in the story of how Bletchley Park code breakers shortened the Second World War by unravelling Lorenz, the most complex enemy cipher used in communications by the German High Command.
Margaret Sale, a trustee at The National Museum of Computing, said: “This Colossus Virtual Reality Experience is astonishingly good and pushes the boundaries of current technology in homage of the world’s first computer. It brings a whole new dimension to the possibilities of computer conservation and for the outreach display of Museum artefacts. We are really looking forward to taking it to expos – but even using it beside the real exhibits in the Museum is dazzling.”
Eddie Vassallo, CEO of Entropy Reality, gave a glimpse of the complexity of the task and revealed that the two museum galleries provided his company with its greatest challenge yet, requiring new innovative approaches. “With a tight script provided by the museum, we filmed the galleries in 360 degrees with six Go Pro Hero 4 cameras operating in sync adding extra footage to emphasise important 3D elements in the scenes.
“The biggest challenge was Colossus. Its size and detail are mind-blowing in real life – for the virtual world, we required massive servers to process its 65 million points of data. Each shot took 31 hours to process and export! Then we had the huge post-production task of stitching together all our images and deploy various tricks of the trade, just like a magician, to make sure the viewer looks where we want them to.”
Phase One is now complete and being used by the Museum on site and in roadshows. Later this year, Entropy Reality will release the app to the app stores. To use the downloadable app, users will need only a VR-capable mobile handset (ideally a Google Android handset compatible with Google's DayDream VR), an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive machine.
But there is even more to come. Phase Two, expected early next year, will incorporate elements such as touch. Phase Three will see it all working, giving users the ability to send messages between locations.
Notes To Editors
1 About Entropy Reality
From advanced content management to top-tier web, mobile & VR/AR development using Ruby on Rails, iOS, Android, Windows, HTML5 and more, Entropy is revolutionising and re-imagining web and mobile experiences for the biggest brands in the world. The company in based in the Bletchley park Science and Innovation Centre.www.entropy.works/reality
2 About The National Museum of Computing
The National Museum of Computing, located on Bletchley Park, is an independent charity housing the world's largest collection of functional historic computers, including the rebuilt Colossus, the world’s first electronic computer, and the WITCH, the world's oldest working digital computer. The Museum enables visitors to follow the development of computing from the ultra-secret pioneering efforts of the 1940s through the large systems and mainframes of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, and the rise of personal computing in the 1980s and beyond.
The Museum runs a highly successful Learning Programme for schools and colleges and promotes introductions to computer coding amongst young people to inspire the next generation of computer scientists and engineers.
Sponsors of the Museum have included Bletchley Park Science and Innovation Centre, Bloomberg, CreateOnline, Ceravision, Fujitsu, InsightSoftware.com, Ocado Technology, FUZE, 4Links, Google UK, IBM, NPL, HP Labs, and BCS.
Outside the long school holidays, the whole Museum is open to the public from 12 noon - 5pm on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, spring and summer Bank Holidays and during long school holidays. The Colossus and Tunny galleries are open daily. Public and private Guided Tours are available and bookable online – see the website or the iPhone app for details. Educational and corporate group visits are available by prior arrangement.
For more information, see www.tnmoc.org and follow @tnmoc on Twitter and The National Museum of Computing on Facebook and Google+. A TNMOC iPhone App is also available from the iPhone App Store.
Stephen Fleming, Palam Communications, for The National Museum of Computing