The partnership responsible for developing one of Britain's most beautiful tourist destinations is going digital to help even more people enjoy its charms - including an osprey's eye view "flight".
Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust (KWFPDT) has commissioned two companies to develop virtual experiences, which will enable more visitors to engage with wildlife and the natural environment in the Park.
This first commission is part of a National Lottery Heritage Fund project, entitled ‘Building the Capacity and Resilience of Kielder'. The project aims to explore how digital technology can assist in attracting a larger, and more diverse, audience to the Park. It also hopes to offer new, high quality experiences that visitors are willing to pay for, which in turn will help sustain the Park's future.
The Trust is working with Digital Catapult North East Tees Valley to deliver this exciting initiative. Middlesbrough-based Animmersion, which creates exceptional photorealistic 3D visualisation, is developing a prototype for an immersive digital experience, which will enhance visitors' knowledge and understanding of Kielder's precious ospreys. Through this, visitors will be able to take a virtual flight through the Park, as though they were an osprey.
David Renwick, Director, England, North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “The proposed virtual osprey flight experience will enable visitors of all ages to experience for themselves what it is like to be an osprey at Kielder. Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, more people will gain a greater understanding of the behaviours and habits of these special birds and will be able to contribute to the future sustainability of Osprey Watch activities.”
The second project is also being delivered in partnership with Digital Catapult, as part of the North East Social Tech Fund. London-based immersive technology specialist Arcade is creating a prototype for an immersive application, which will encourage visitors to engage with the Park's origins, flora and fauna.
Using the app, people will be able to see a 3D scale replica of the Kielder area on their table top, and then explore the space and the stories about Kielder's past and its role today as a living habitat for wildlife and human activity. They will have an opportunity to ‘adopt' an area and become a ‘Guardian of Kielder', choosing which plants or animals they want to add to their ‘plot'.
If they then visit Kielder, they will be able to view their plot in person and see what they have created.
Lynn Turner, Director of KWFPDT said: "Digital innovation can help us to increase visitor numbers, and attract a wider diversity of people to the area, including young people and those from disadvantaged groups. In the current climate, digital is becoming an increasingly important way for us to engage with our customers, and we hope these prototypes will lead to new experiences, which can be enjoyed both at Kielder and by those who aren't able to visit us in person."
Anna Malley, Project Manager at Digital Catapult North East Tees Valley said: "KWFPDT is such an amazing example of a typical non-digital organisation that has really embraced the adoption of new technologies to improve its visitor experiences. When people think about the great outdoors, technology is not necessarily the first connection they might make. But through our workshop with a variety of partners involved at Kielder, we soon identified multiple ways technology could be of benefit to them. We're all really excited to try the digital prototype experience when it's ready. I know many of our team loved visiting Kielder (before Covid-19 restrictions), which is such an important part of our region, and it's great to know that people could soon be able to bring a bit of Kielder into their own homes."
The North East Social Tech Fund has been funded by Comic Relief, County Durham Community Foundation, Newcastle Building Society and Northstar Foundation.
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