Carto Group excite crowd with 3D VR visualisation of major economic development across Swindon

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Innovation with 3D geospatial data is the ethos of our company and when Swindon Borough Council (SBC) and Switch On To Swindon (SOTS) came calling with a need to visualise major economic development in an engaging way for a large audience, they knew which local company to approach.

A major part of the event, held at the Nationwide Building Society HQ, was to update business leaders and the public on the latest economic development construction projects across the borough. Swindon has a lot to offer now and in the near future. so it was key that this was communicated in a way that would make the audience sit up and take notice.

After receiving the brief, which had a challenging time frame, The Carto Group (TCG) team quickly got to work on story boarding ideas internally, to then share with our partners. The original brief was to create a film, that would be broadcast on large screens. Although films are good, they have been done before, multiple times over, and this event needed something different, something even more captivating.

Whilst discussing the possibilities, it was agreed that an interactive Virtual Reality (VR) application, that could be demonstrated live on the night and also downloaded by the public at a later date, was the way forward. Susie Kemp, CEO of SBC was to be the narrator whilst Shaun Landy, Game Dev at TCG, flew interactively across the borough visiting each development site that included Architect 3D models and showcase development images.

The beauty of developing the ‘geospatial way’ is that the app is driven by data. This delivers immense value in the creation of apps of this kind and their flexibility. We are using geospatial streaming technology and databases which allows for quick updates and enhancements of the app so it will never be out of date. Completely future proofed and delivers time and cost savings. We are also using already invested in construction data, which show how the journey of information can be used throughout a construction project lifecycle but also by as many stakeholders as possible.

What could you achieve with VR technology?

Historic Swindon Carriage Works buildings undergo the 3D treatment

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The Carriage Works is situated at the heart of Swindon railway heritage area.

Swindon Railway Works opened in January 1843 as a repair and maintenance facility for the new Great Western Railway. By 1900 the works had expanded dramatically and employed over 12,000 people. At its peak in the 1930s, the works covered over 300 acres and was capable of producing three locomotives a week.

Fast forward a few decades, the Carriage Works is still a thriving economic industrial area, with a mix match of car garages and specialist workshops.

Swindon Borough Council are beginning a digital transformation journey, but to be able to do this effectively long term, they need a digitally enabled workforce, on tap. Companies and organisations that reside in the town also need a new digital workforce to meet today’s challenges, with less. Less people, and less capital.

The heritage of Swindon’s Carriage Works (once part of railway innovation) is being transformed. Large units have been emptied and digital SME’s are primed to move in. Its all started with WORKSHED. A tech and digital incubation centre, funded by Swindon Borough Council. A empty, dirty, rundown industrial unit has been transformed into high end, cost effective a flexible office space, something more likely to be seen in London and other large cities. Swindon’s digital revival has begun.

The Carto Group were one of the first in, even before the dust had settled. Our CEO and Founder, Tim Hughes (a Swindonian), has been bought into this vision before the architects had even started their designs.

Of course WORKSHED is just the start, and Swindon Borough Council have commissioned The Carto Group to undertake 3D building surveys of the ‘old bike sheds’ and the other empty units at the Carriage Works. Being unused for many years and the fact the buildings are listed, means there are many structural challenges for architects and engineers to come through, so a reliable high resolution 3D survey of the buildings was a must.

We are proud to be part of the transformation and revival of Swindon’s ‘heritage zone’ and also be residents within the buildings.

The future is bright for this once forgotten area, and with the amazing footfall from the Outlet Village and National Trust, the area is on the verge of becoming a bustling community, like it once was when it served the railway.

Surveying, because you can…

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You know when you walk past something everyday and it just looks wrong? Well…

For the last few months I have walked past a sign stuck to a lamp post which says “WORKSHED 50m ahead”, which, in itself isn’t offensive but the navigator in me blatantly knows that it is definitely NOT 50m.

Days go past and each time I past the sign a little tick starts occurring and I find myself cringing, but what do you do? Luckily for us at The Carto Group, we have always have a bit of survey gear around thanks to our Lead Surveyor, Tom Ridgway being in the office.

Building Survey

On this day, Tom had been out doing some rectification work (getting the correct real world coordinates to make sure a model could be put accurately in a geospatial context) and we had a Trimble R8s hanging about…..so Tom and I set out to calm my curiosity.

The Trimble R8s is a great bit of kit, allowing 440 channels (think of a channel as a satellite signal – 440 channels allows the unit to ‘lock on to’ and search for up to 440 satellite signals simultaneously for improved accuracy and speed of survey) and is lightning quick, thanks to all those channels getting a good fix. With a precision of 8mm, making sure we got the measurement right was never an issue….though being close to the wall was.

Little known fact – In built up areas GPS signals (radio waves) can be blocked, called shadowing in the trade and this means getting a good bit of equipment is important. This is why your mobile phone can sometimes be a bit strange in city centres!

Tom Ridgway surveying

We managed to get a good fix and within 10 minutes we measured the distance. It was not 50m and my curiosity is now quenched. The measurement? That was 38.5 metres. Remember that next time you pass the lamp post on London Road, Swindon, which has the sign and try not to let it bother you that it is wrong.