Railway heritage goes digital; visitors can now tour the STEAM Museum in the UK from a web browser, thanks to an immersive experience created by NavVis Mapping Partner Cognica.
A titan of the Industrial Revolution, Isambard Kingdom Brunel began the Great Western Railway (GWR) in Swindon, England, in 1835 with an ambitious plan to link the cities of London and Bristol.
This was a pivotal moment in the industrial development of the United Kingdom; local engineers and railway workers designed and built the infrastructure needed to transport passengers and goods to locations across the network.
The spirit of harnessing new technologies and connecting users continues today with a 360° virtual tour of the famous STEAM Museum, where visitors can explore the galleries and interact with iconic GWR steam locomotives and memorabilia. An incentive for the project was the COVID-19 pandemic; the local borough council wanted to provide access to members of the public while also complying with the need for physical distancing.
"This is an exciting new experience for local residents, families and fans of GWR worldwide."
To make it happen, STEAM teamed up with Cognica, a NavVis Mapping Partner, to develop a high-definition virtual tour leveraging their Insite360 platform built atop NavVis IndoorViewer.
"This is an exciting new experience for local residents, families and fans of GWR worldwide," says Councillor Dale Heenan, Swindon Borough Council's Cabinet Member responsible for STEAM. "We are trying to think differently about people engaging with our history, our art, our heritage and I hope residents enjoy the tour."
Soon, you will be able to explore STEAM’s captivating exhibitions and displays from home with a 360° Virtual Tour of the Museum. Watch this space! 🚂🖼️🎩— STEAM Museum (@steam_museum) April 15, 2020
Captured and hosted by @COGNICALtd.#MuseumFromHome #CultureinQuarantine #ComingSoon pic.twitter.com/4Sndk1Hu9A
From Water Infrastructure to Railway Museums
Creating virtual museum tours is a new venture for Cognica, an Information Management Services business focused on acquiring, managing, and leveraging information on behalf – and for the benefit – of their clients.
Founded in 1998 in Swindon, the company originated as an Operation and Maintenance document collation service for Water and Construction industries in the UK. Clients include Severn Trent Water, the University of Leeds, Southern Water, and four of the five leading construction firms in the UK.
"NavVis have allowed Cognica to grow their customer base by diversifying our product portfolio."
Cognica became a NavVis Mapping Partner in 2018 and was an early adopter of the NavVis M6, embracing a new device that allowed them to scan industrial sites at greater speed and scale. They also developed a new product on top of NavVis IndoorViewer, called Insite360. This platform complements the traditional Cognica business by offering their customers a visual reference in tandem with the systems they currently use.
"NavVis have allowed Cognica to grow their customer base by diversifying our product portfolio," explains David Gillies, Head of Product Management at Cognica.
"The Insite360 product has also allowed us to diversify into other industries such as museums, where we have scanned the STEAM Museum in Swindon. There are further plans to complete works in Manufacturing and Health Care sites where Cognica has had some success in the past."
Providing continuity of service in times of crisis
For the project at the STEAM Museum in Swindon, the team at Cognica originally scanned the location in September 2019 as a promotional piece to help with their Insite360 marketing.
But after COVID-19 countermeasures came into effect in the UK, Cognica agreed to host the tour to support a local business and enable the museum to still receive visitors during the lockdown. The tour is hosted on NavVis Cloud, making this cultural heritage experience freely available to all.
"We've really enjoyed collaborating with STEAM on this immersive project and to showcase the benefits of our new Insite360 platform," says Aaron Francis, Account Support Coordinator at Cognica. "STEAM is the first venue in the UK to utilize this new technology, and I'm sure Mr. Brunel would be proud of the results we've achieved."
"Cognica's driving aim is to help organizations visualize their surroundings using high resolution 360-degree panoramic photos and laser-accurate point cloud technology."
"Cognica's driving aim is to help organizations visualize their surroundings using high resolution 360-degree panoramic photos and laser-accurate point cloud technology," continues Aaron. "STEAM kindly allowed our engineers to scan their wonderful Museum, and I really hope users enjoy the experience."
For the majority of Cognica's customers, meanwhile, the value of Insite360 is that it is a simple, readily available, and easy-to-use tool. They have found that Insite360 provides its users with Digital Twin data for import into BIM, ways to avoid short visits to remote sites to reduce their carbon footprint, and marketing opportunities for potential clients by showing off their buildings. It's also a conduit to access other key information, such as Maintenance Information.
The STEAM Museum Virtual Tour is available now through the museum's website. To find out more, visit: www.steam-museum.org.uk
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Images credits: STEAM – Museum of the Great Western Railway. These photographs feature locomotives and exhibits on loan from the National Railway Museum.