Glückauf! Take a Guided Virtual Reality Tour Inside Germany’s Last Coal Mine
For generations, coal or the “black gold” powered Germany’s industrial pre-eminence. Generations of families and communities lived off the coal mines that also kept German industries humming along. Now the last of the coal mines is about to be closed by the end of 2018 and an innovative virtual reality project has recreated a virtual simulation of Germany’s last coal mine using photogrammetry and LIDAR techniques.
Dubbed, Glückauf, the project descends into Germany’s industrial Ruhr region and 1200m below the ground to create a volumetric render of the inside of the coal mine with aim of preserving this aspect of the industrial history. The creators scanned and captured every detail inside the tunnels of Prosper Haniel, the last active coal mine in the country, using volumetric and photogrammetry techniques. The result is a volumetric and photorealistic virtual reality documentary that takes users on a guided tour through the various spots inside Germany’s last black coal mine and immortalizes this iconic mine.
The highly realistic volumetric virtual reality recreation begins at the surface of the coal preparation plant. From here, the user can go past the coal mixing dome and the lamp storage area and then make their way to the underground railroad system that ships the workers and the coal.
Once on the underground rail, the user will travel deep into the surface until they reach the mining site deep in the surface. Many of us have an idea of what coal mining is like but we rarely appreciate the depths that miners reach to extract black coal.
As you make your trip through the VR recreation, you will be guided through the labyrinth by a veteran miner who is known as “Kumpel”. Kumpel will take you through the mine and explain the details of the mine operation.
The team had to surmount monumental challenges and restrictions in accessing the mine. This began with a long negotiation process for the permit to access the mine. The equipment they were using isn’t usually allowed in the mine as it can trigger mining gas explosion and they had to be accompanied into the mine by a team of firefighters. The gas level measurements had to be done on a regular basis to ensure it was at a safe level. There were also extreme light conditions inside the mines, narrowness of the mine shafts and the short time windows. It is amazing they pulled this off while working in such extreme conditions.
The cross platform project was done in conjunction with the German television channel WDR and will also be available on Web VR and in 360. Currently, the project is only available in German on this website https://glueckauf.wdr.de/.