Virtual tours of railway heritage sites in trains, classrooms to begin soon
Soon, passengers onboard trains or students in faraway locations can take a tour of the National Rail Museum or see the Kalka-Shimla rail route without moving from their seats. Taking forward its digital initiative to preserve and promote its heritage, Railways has tied up with Google’s education initiative to create and deliver virtual educational expeditions using 3-D imaging and virtual tours of its prominent heritage places.
As a part of this project, Railways is considering providing virtual reality glasses to passengers on rent so that they can have a glimpse of the sites without actually being there physically. It is also planning to collaborate with schools and NGOs to take the glasses to classrooms.
“We want to take this forward and offer an opportunity for students across the country, wherever they are, to experience railway heritage. They might not be able to come there physically, but they will experience it as if they were. We want to join hands with educational institutions, NGOs for this purpose.
“The railway minister has asked us to provide such glasses to the onboard staff so that they can be used by passengers,” Subrata Nath, Executive Director (Heritage) told PTI. The cost of these glasses - Google’s version is called Google cardboard - vary, with the cheapest coming for less than Rs 200. All one has to do is use the Google Expedition app or open the Google arts and culture website and search for the railway heritage sites one wishes to visit. In the first phase, virtual expeditions are being created for Kalka Shimla Railway (KSR) and CSMT, Mumbai -- both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Nath said that the project is exciting especially because it can be used as a teaching tool for students who may be unable to afford trips to the sites themselves. “Through this innovative project, children and students will be introduced to a new way of learning using virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), thus creating classrooms with no boundaries. “With VR and AR, teachers will no longer be limited by the space of the classroom and this project will allow teacher, say in Kerala or Tamil Nadu to guide students through scenic panorama of Kangra Valley Railway, located thousands of miles away in Himachal Pradesh or Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, Mumbai, without travelling even out of their city or town,” said Nath.