Pwll Back Cwm Rhondda is Wales’ first interactive virtual reality (VR) coal mine. The VR coalmine was created for Rhondda Heritage Park / Rhondda Cynon Taff Borough Council funded by Welsh Gov. “Winter of Wellbeing” funding.

The Welsh mine consists of a valley vista, a lamp room and an outside courtyard area.

The drift mine itself consists of over 200 meters of tunnels, which includes an interactive coalface, two horse stables, and five short educational films.

Below is a short film of the VR educational experince

“Pwll Bach Cwm Rhondda” is Wales’ first VR experince.

About the Project:

The interactive coal mine was designed and delivered using a variety of software and hardware.

Collection of data, used to create the 3D models, was carried out a variety of sites, mostly at Rhondda Heritage Park.

At all stages of the project we worked closely with museum curators and a project dedicated reasearcher. Authenticity in the modelling and the film content was paramount.

We were also concious that we did not want to create a “digital twin” of Rhondda Heritage Park site but a unique mining experince aimed especially (but not exclusively) at young learners.

We used retired miners from Merthyr Vale, once the site of Rhondda Heritage Park, for much of the narration. The interactive soundscape, formed from actual mine recordings, is triggered geographically as users moved themselves through the experience.

The 3D model itself was created by capturing authentic elements and textures from Merthyr Vale Colliery and other derelict mines, together with items from the museum’s collection.  Textures were collected via HDR photography and 3D models and were created via photogrammetry and refined in the editing suite.   We used these building blocks as the basis for the mine.

Interactive 3D digital twins of “handling items” were created on site using our portable photogrammetry studio.   These interactive items can be handled and examined by users.  Descriptions are given by voice that is triggered when an item is picked-up. 

We also placed 3D animated horses and canaries in the mine, in the lamp-room and the stables respectively. The drift mine has an interactive coalface where users are able to dig coal using a virtual pick-axe. A suite of films are built into the sides of the mine “roadways”.

The films are narrated by ex-coalminers. The films are deliberatley very short (30 – 60 seconds) and contain interesting Rhondda coal mining facts.

Films are set in walls of the mining roadways

A 360 panoramic sky-dome was created and set over the entire model.

The VR mine has undergone extensive user testing and is now being deployed in primary schools and at the museum itself.

The project was delivered on schedule and within budget. – ends