Pioneering work which aims to introduce cutting-edge digital technology in the heart of the legendary Sherwood Forest area has been revealed for the first time at Rufford Country Park.
Nottinghamshire County Council, in partnership with academic researchers and local businesses, is leading the £10 million, 25-month research programme to create the world’s first 5G Connected Forest within the historic Sherwood Forest area, due to be wrapped up by March 2022.
With funding worth around £5 million from the DCMS’s Rural Connected Communities programme, matched by the consortium partners, the project focuses on how 5G technology can boost the tourism and environment protection sectors.
A Robin Hood interactive holographic experience 'An Arrow Through Time' is on target to be fully trialled later this year using mixed reality headsets.
The production has been put together by project partner Gooii Ltd and features an exciting cast of actors, including Black Mirror’s Dominic Le Moignan, using a script co-written by Bafta award-winning CBBC writer and producer Nick Hutchings.
Speaking from Rufford Mill, Councillor Keith Girling, chairman of the county council’s Economic Development and Asset Management Committee, said:
"5G Connected Forest really is an exciting project and I am proud that Nottinghamshire is leading the way with these trials.
"'An Arrow Through Time' brings local legends to life in a way never seen before.
"I’ve been lucky enough to experience how amazing it is. I know others will love it too.
"It showcases our ongoing commitment to make Nottinghamshire an even more attractive place to visit thanks to the development of world-class visitor experiences such as this."
Phil Hasted, of Nottingham-based Gooii Ltd, said:
"We’re excited to produce one of, if not the world’s first ever interactive holographic movie. We have an amazing cast, combined with a thrilling story and we can’t wait for the adventure to be opened up to the wider public and visitors, which is the aim after the test bed and trial programme is complete."
A new forest ranger robot dog was also unveiled, designed by experts from Birmingham City University.
This prototype, remote-controlled, dog-shaped robot is taking the lead by trialling how data gathered from areas which are usually inaccessible, can help monitor and assess the health and condition within a forest environment.
Nottinghamshire school children aged 5-11 will have the chance to officially name the robot dog as part of a new competition due to be launched after the half term break next month.
The winner and their classmates will be invited to take part in the trials to test and give their feedback on the new Robin Hood interactive holographic experience planned later this year.
The winner will also get an adventure golf session for a family of four as well as a family meal deal, courtesy of Parkwood Leisure, which manages Rufford Abbey on behalf of Nottinghamshire County Council.
Cllr Keith Girling continued:
"We are delighted to be holding a new competition, we want to highlight how important it is to protect these ancient woodlands so they can be enjoyed by families and visitors for generations to come."
Further details of how to enter will be sent to schools in the coming weeks, as well as promoted on county council social media channels.
Birmingham City University Associate Professor Taufiq Asyhari said:
"We are thrilled to be able to showcase some of the high-end AI, computing, and other cutting-edge network and interactive technologies, which are helping to drive the 5G Connected Forest project.
"Our research and development work around data collection and intelligent processing, understanding and improving connectivity, and helping to upscale the forestry environmental management is moving from strength to strength – we’re delighted to be part of a great team on this project."
Robin Hood, Maid Marian and Little John made a special guest appearance courtesy of Notts Outdoors, the County Council’s outdoor and environmental education service. Robert Brackley, aka Robin Hood, said:
"This is about using the technology of the future to help look after the present and remember our past."
Other elements of the project include 5G Connected Forest will also enable visitors to experience an augmented reality ‘ghost walk’ at nearby Rufford Mill, while an innovative app-based experience called Tag-in-the-Park, aims to help bring visits to the park to life.
The county council is leading the project in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, Birmingham City University, Netmore IOT Solutions, Gooii, ISPB, Harworth Group, and Parkwood Leisure.
The project is also in collaboration with RSPB as Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve is managed by an RSPB-led consortium in partnership with the county council.