Gregory Lord provided the following summary about our work with undergraduate research partners/collaborators:
Working with DHi’s Lead Designer and Software Engineer, Gregory Lord, DHi intern Kevin Xiao ’15 participated in the Soweto Historical GIS Project as a student modeler and virtual environment artist. Over the course of his internship, Lord taught Xiao basic 3D modeling skills within Blender (www.blender.org), an open source 3D modeling software, which Xiao was then able to apply and further develop during an extended DHi research project. Working with materials provided by Nieves, Xiao was able to use blueprints and architectural drawings to model accurate recreations of the traditional homes of the Soweto township in Johannesburg, South Africa, including the iconic Mandela Family Museum. These models were then able to be imported into the Unity engine (www.unity3d.com), to be assembled into a virtual recreation of a portion of Soweto, based on maps constructed from Open Street Maps data. The end result is a virtual recreation of several city blocks of Soweto, incorporating realistic homes and local buildings. Xiao worked on this project over the course of two years, under the instruction of Lord and the project direction of Nieves. Xiao was particularly interested in learning 3D modeling and game development tools for his independent research, and this project served as a practical example of the workflows of each type of software.
The project team is currently working to develop a qualitative 3D GIS platform for the geospatial visualization of testimony of the Soweto Uprising for wide public use.