My name is Colin Johnson and my learning curve for computer graphics and VR started way back in 1993 when I was fortunate enough to be commisioned to design an audio visual experience for Dudley Castle here in England. The brief was to use the latest computer graphics tools to create a 3D model and visualisation of the Castle as it was in 1550 when John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland was one of the most powerful men in the country.
This project took on an added challenge when it was announced that HM Queen Elizabeth II was due to open the visitor centre in less than twelve months and my system was set to be a centrepiece of the complete historical interpretation.
Planning for a royal visit must be a logistical headache for the Royal household security and full details of the system had to be supplied months before the opening, and the title I gave to the system was 'Virtual Tour' being a cross between 'Royal Tour' and the pioneering use of 'Virtual Reality' applications.
With finger at the ready is a local dignitary guiding Her Majesty to the start button (no headsets in those days).
Seen here in June 1994 pressing the forward directional pushbutton Queen Elizabeth became the first user of a Virtual Tour.
Soon after similar systems were installed around the UK, mainly in heritage and museum centres. This gave a unique opportunity to observe how a wide cross section of the public reacted to VR. Much of the lessons learned are still very relevant today, even with the use of contemporary VR platforms and modern headsets.
The term 'Virtual Tour' although copyright went on to be used extensively by the US Real Estate market on the infant WWW when Apple released QTVR in 1995 and photo-stitching software appeared.
Alongside interactive media I have continued to utilise the latest available effects software and techniques to create eye-catching video clips derived from still photos or existing footage. This helps meet the ever present shortage of video footage as the digital world moves into ever higher image resolutions.
An archive of the original Virtual Tours project can be viewed here..