The Colossus VR Experience

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 National Museum of Computing Summer Bytes family festival running 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.

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