Amy Johnson was only 37 when the plane she was piloting crashed into the Thames Estuary. It was 1941 and the crash was a shock given that Johnson had extensive flight experience, including being the first woman to make a solo flight from Britain to Australia. Her body was never recovered and there is still some degree of mystery surrounding exactly what happened and why. What is certain is that Johnson was a marvel of flight dexterity and an icon to women in aviation.
Her solo flight from London to Darwin, taken in 1930, was just the beginning of what was to be a career studded with numerous records. In 1931 she and co-pilot Jack Humphreys flew from London to Moscow in only one day, setting a world record before continuing on to Tokyo, also setting a record flying time. It was while flying that her husband-to-be Jim Mollison proposed to her – only eight hours after they had met. She went on to set records for flying times from London to Cape Town and to India.
Now, 75 years after her death, Johnson has been given a new lease on life in a walking, talking 3D digital version of herself put together by experts from the University of Hull in her very own hometown, and members of the Digital Design Studio at the Glasgow School of Art. The motion capture technology used for recreating Johnson is akin to that which was used to create the slithering Gollum for The Lord of the Rings movies.
This was then paired with the University of Hull’s Immersive Visual Environment (HIVE) and the very real presence of actress Rachel Harris. A black-suited Harris posed and moved as Amy Johnson, whose ‘skin’ was then placed over the framework she created. The digital diva was then ready to represent one of the grand dames of aviation history at the Amy Johnson Festival held in Hull.
This project is about more than celebrating the life of Hull’s famous aviatrix. It is also a demonstration of the connections between arts and sciences. Professor Stephanie Haywood, of the University of Hull’s School of Engineering, expressed her satisfaction with the project and its message:
“We are proud to join forces with the Amy Johnson Festival in celebrating one of the city’s most prominent pioneers. Although underpinned by science and maths, engineering is also very much about art and design. This ambitious festival creates a fantastic way to make the relationship between art and engineering – a connection we are passionate about making.”
While Johnson herself has been lost to us, and all too soon, this new virtual stand-in provides an inspiration both for who she was and as the digital self that she has come to be.
Discuss further over in the Virtual Amy Johnson forum at 3DPB.com.[Source/Images via: Daily Mail]
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