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3-D virtual reality technology takes school kids into heart of A-bombed Nagasaki

A computer image of the post-nuclear bombing aftermath of Urakami Cathedral and surrounding buildings is seen. (Image courtesy of professor Takashi Fujiki)

NAGASAKI -- A 3-D model of post-atomic bombing Nagasaki has been developed to allow today's children to experience the devastation through virtual reality.

    "It allows people to more fully experience the tragedy of the bomb," said Nagasaki University professor of educational engineering Takashi Fujiki, who is part of the group that made the 3-D model.

    The model was created using post-bombing photos and other material, and depicts the badly damaged Urakami Cathedral and the collapsed Shiroyama Elementary School, which was rebuilt after World War II and remains a school today. All told, the model covers everything within a 500-meter radius from the blast hypocenter.

    To use the 3-D model, first a person walks around in the city of Nagasaki with a tablet. Their path is recorded using GPS, and the data is transferred to a computer. Wearing special glasses and looking at a large LCD display connected to the computer, they can then "walk" through the same area in post-bombing Nagasaki. The experience includes additions like the sound of wind blowing through the destroyed city and the sound of walking over rubble. If a user snaps a photo with the tablet in the present-day city, they can also see a 3-D recreation of the same spot just after the A-bomb.

    In early October, Fujiki and the rest of the team used the 3-D recreation in education for the first time. Ten fifth-graders from Kayaki Elementary School in Nagasaki walked around the bombed area and then watched the 3-D scenery on a screen set up at the Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims. The children yelled things like "Wow!" and "There's nothing left!"

    One participant, 11-year-old Koko Matsuda, said, "I was surprised by seeing the destroyed Nagasaki. I'd heard the stories of A-bomb survivors, but (using the 3-D model) makes it easier to understand what it was like."

    Fujiki said, "It's hard to imagine the bomb damage of over 70 years ago, and people tend to feel like it's something that happened somewhere else. By walking the area oneself and comparing then and now, the two are connected and one can better understand the damage."

    Children wearing special glasses experience a 3-D "walk" through the aftermath of the Nagasaki atomic bomb, in Nagasaki. (Mainichi)

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