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A 90-year-old woman with dementia was able to relive her youth when her grandson produced an incredible virtual reality model of her family home, which had been knocked down.
Mark Lewis Jackson, 37, was worried about his grandmother Penny during lockdown, fearing that those in care homes may face even more social isolation than they often already do.
Working as a landscape architect and Digital Placemaker at Place Jam, Mark decided to put his skills into good use, and set about creating something that would not only bring his grandmother some joy, but would also help take her down memory lane.
Penny used to live in McDowall in Brisbane, Australia, but her family home was demolished back in 2004, removing any trace of the property that had been filled with memories.
However, through photographs and his own memories of the house, Mark was able to bring her beloved home back to life, hoping it may bring her comfort during such difficult times.
He told LADbible: "I heard about the social isolation facing those in care homes during the pandemic.
"I was lecturing at MMU [Manchester Metropolitan University] at the time, helping to run a module where we taught Masters Landscape Architecture students how to convert their masterplans into 3D VR experiences. There is value in visualising a landscape design, but what about a place in time?
"I thought about my Granny stuck in her room in her care home, not even able to venture out into the communal garden during the pandemic. I recalled her love of the gardening and the large property she had lived at for over 25 years on Keona Road, Mcdowall, Brisbane.
"It had been demolished and subdivided in 2004, but with the digital tools available, I got to work on recreating the property.
"I hoped it would provide some comfort to her. Psychologically I knew that a view of the natural environment would be beneficial, especially if it was of somewhere familiar to her.
"We often see very lavish locations depicted in VR, far flung places and natural wonders of the world, but the ordinary suburban landscape can be more meaningful if it has personal connotations."
Mark, from Greater Manchester, put the VR together during his spare time over the course of a few months in the early stages of the pandemic.
When it was finally finished, he sadly wasn't able to show Penny the house in person - with visiting being off-limits due to coronavirus risks - but staff at her care home showed it to her and documented her reaction for him, saying she even recognised her home.
Mark continued: "A member of staff at John Wesley Gardens, Kendra Horwood was good enough to show Granny via a tablet. She reportedly enjoyed the video and recognised the property. I was delighted with the photo they sent of her watching the video.
"I aspire to get the VR experience of the model in front of her, but again, the lockdown means cleanliness and disinfection of all objects (including head mounted displays) and surfaces is the priority.
"I have since shown my brother the model in VR and he loved it. He was even commenting on aspects of the model from his own memory and improvements I could make."
Mark, who was born in Brisbane, recalled how the house became his 'home away from home', having spent a great deal of time there growing up - even after he emigrated to the UK when he was nine.
"I mourned the development of the property after having seen an aerial shot of it levelled," he said.
"I can't help but wonder what Granny's sense of attachment must be with that place from the 25+ years she spent there."
It was this personal connection that proved difficult, as Mark had to try not to rely on his own memories of the site - instead cross-referencing any photos or video footage he could find.
"Aligning my childhood memory of the property with the photos gathered from my own archive and from other family members was a challenge," he said.
"Sometimes these photos were digitised versions of real photographs so the resolution and lighting weren't always ideal.
"Getting the topography right was quite tough. Historic terrain models weren't available, so I started with historic maps in conjunction with existing terrain data."
However, in the end his efforts proved worthwhile, providing Penny with a much-needed reminder of her past, while also highlighting the power of such technology in helping others in the same way.
Mark added: "Early on in the process I wrote about the model for the Landscape Journal. This was prior to its completion and creation of the video. I created the term 'surroscape' to describe an artificial surrogate landscape, using Keona Road as an example. Surroscapes are not intended to replace real landscapes, it's an aspect of the metaverse.
"As we continue to create digital twins of real world spaces and experience it through extended reality, we will also benefit from the experience of these spaces prior to their ongoing physical development."
Featured Image Credit: LADbible
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