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RiVR Unearths the Secret Tunnels of Warwick

UK-based RiVR is a specialist in creating photorealistic virtual reality (VR) environments for a range of organisations including fire and rescue services and the police. Based in Warwickshire, the team has begun a project close to their hearts (and location) by uncovering and mapping the secret tunnels of Warwick for everyone to explore. 

RiVR - Warwick
Image credit: RiVR

The project is the brainchild of Warwick residents Joe and Alex Harvey – Production Director and Creative Director at RiVR respectively – taking their knowledge of photogrammetry to scan the tunnels. This was not only to preserve part of the historic town’s heritage but to also allow people to head down and see the tunnels for themselves, all in VR.

“Our passion is anything to do with cultural heritage and being able to use what we have learnt with photogrammetry to do something in the community while preserving history in the local area and further afield,” said Alex in a statement. “In Warwick, there has always been the myth or the pub story of the tunnels of Warwick – a bit like most towns that have these ancient tunnels.”

So while locals do know the tunnels exist, little is known about what condition they might be in and where they lead. Initially, Joe and Alex teamed up with local historians Jim Griffin and Peter Chapman to pool information. Griffin and Chapman shared a newspaper cutting from the 1920’s saying there was a tunnel off a well in Jury Street. “About six months ago, Joe arranged for safety equipment to be put over the hole and Jim volunteered to explore down the tunnel,” Alex continued. “With a laser scanner and a GoPro 360 camera, we documented it so people can actually experience it at a later date.”

RiVR - Warwick
Image credit: RiVR

“More recently we went down again with the Tech Rescue team from Leicester fire and rescue service. We put GoPros on them and they went further into the hole and filmed more footage for us,” Alex explained. “You have to traverse down the well and you go through this hole in the rock and then to the left-hand side there’s one tunnel that leads back up towards the house’s basement, then straight ahead of you (facing towards St. Mary’s Church) you can go about 10-15 metres until the tunnel turns off to the left then there’s a partial collapse a further 10 meters down that way, but we ran out of safety line on the G-saver to go any further on this attempt.”

You can see this process in action in the video below. RiVR hasn’t said when this project would likely be made available to the public but the team is also working on some others. Developer Realities.io has been in contact with the team to utilise scans in its 3D jigsaw puzzle title Puzzling Places. “We are in conversations with the church regarding this idea, as we want to take any money made from the game and donate it to St. Mary’s Church,” the brothers note.

VRFocus will continue its coverage of RiVR, reporting back with progress on these developments.