History of our streets

Team Histerical Time Machine
3D Rendering Andrew Sage
Database APIs Rodrigo de Oliveira, Johnny
Google Maps API Steph Inglis
Research and Information Fiona Clark
Planning and Support Alexander Ryland

Whether you’re a tourist, researcher or lifetime local resident there’s a wealth of history in our streets to capture your imagination. Union Street hasn’t always been there and as the city plans its next big development we wanted to know what went before. The project led us down three streams of work: a database of historical facts, a web-based GUI with Google Maps, and a 3D rendering of the city’s history.

Our first prototype was based on Union Bridge. The largest single arch granite bridge in the world, this is a critical crossing connecting Union Street across the Denburn Valley. The great white elephant of its time this project ran over by tens of millions in today’s money and caused huge controversy in early 1800s.

Thanks to Aberdeen City Libraries we had access to a wealth of data available and great access to some key sources of the city’s history. Plotting this for practical use on a 2D map while letting you really feel a part of the story in the 3D render seemed a great way of engaging people in local culture.

Creating a user story and scoping the product

Histerical user storiesFrom the initial map of ideas from the morning’s creative session, we put together some user stories which helped to define the scope of the product and how it might be used. These mini use cases give direction and purpose to the project, and help plan out the tasks which need to be done.

Creating a Kanban board on Trello helped us to keep a track of the tasks being undertaken and who was assigned to each. Along with a Google Drive repository to share files this helped us to keep a track of the project and the tasks required to achieve our end goals. The image below shows the first draft of the tasks needed to be completed within each workstream.

Building the minimum viable product

Histerical prototype posterAs we soon discovered, each work stream was heavily interlinked. The historical data was essential to the whole project in order to give purpose to the end product. Without this nothing could be plotted effectively, so research and discovery filled the bulk of the morning. Using a map of Aberdeen in 1871, we were able to render a 3D image of the city and start to visualise what it would have been like to live in Aberdeen more than a hundred years ago.

Meanwhile, our techies were keenly coding away to build the necessary APIs to pull the data from the database and allow it to be plotted across the different 2D and 3D visualisations. On day two these folk will be building the user interface and hacking the Google API to build the mapping product.

The MVP will be able to display facts pinned to locations on a 2D map around the Union Bridge area, viewed through a web page. The 3D render will show you images of Union Bridge through time and plot the facts into the render and allow users to immerse themselves in the virtual past.

Taking it beyond prototype

This project could have huge scope to create a virtual city which allows users to see what life could have been like over the last two centuries. There’s scope to develop an app which tracks user locations and allows you to access information about the area you’re in based on geo-positioning data. The beta product would ideally look at the Castlegate area before seeking to develop more!

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