This team of students from Salem created a VR app that will help you 'cycle' around the Taj Mahal. Here's what PM Modi said about it

The game is called Heritage Race and was developed by three students of Salem Thiagarajar Polytechnic. What it does is gives you an experience of touring the Taj Mahal via a VR headset
Simulation of Taj Mahal | (Pic: Athik Mohamed M)
Simulation of Taj Mahal | (Pic: Athik Mohamed M)

The reality has been far too grim for far too long now, so Athik Mohamed M, Deepesh M and Anung Yangfo K decided to transcend it with the help of virtual reality (VR) and if all goes well, they might extend help to us too via Heritage Race, a game that even left Prime Minister Narendra Modi quite impressed when the trio presented the idea at the virtual Toycathon 2021 conducted recently. So, how about we go on a journey to understand what the Heritage Race is actually about?

Athik Mohamed M, Deepesh M and Anung Yangfo K

When boredom propelled Athik to get on a stationary cycle during the lockdown, he followed his instincts. But then, boredom came knocking again because though the cycling was good cardio, it hardly did the bare minimum to mentally engage him. This is where the transcending-the-reality-bit happened and when he heard about Toycathon 2021, the idea started to form fully in his head. "None of the games that are in the market right now focus on our culture, which was the focus of the Toycathon. Plus we needed to address the mental and physical wellness of people, because this went for a toss during the lockdown," says the 19-year-old. And voila, by mounting a stationary cycle and using a VR headset, you can tour some of India's most spectacular monuments with Vedic background music for company.

Athik selected his batchmates from Salem Thiagarajar Polytechnic, Salem, Tamil Nadu, to form the A-Team. Together, they worked to get Heritage Race off the ground. "The first monument we worked on was the Taj Mahal. In the game and in reality, the user will be on the cycle, but in the game, they will be able to take a tour of this monument dedicated to love. With simple gestures like looking down, one can start the cycle" he says. With the help of their faculty back in the college and their team mentor Ponni M, they were able to get the technological and financial support they needed, like licensing of software to build the game. They developed the game application, which once downloaded on a smartphone and attached to the VR headset, (which is still in the works because it's an expensive product), is all you need for the touring. Leave the rest to motion and direction sensors and with that, welcome to the virtual world.

The making

Developing simulation, animation, VR setup, user interface programming and the works, Athik, who is pursuing his final-year diploma in Civil Engineering, and Co took over three and a half months to develop the simulation of Taj Mahal alone with all the aforementioned functions. They are planning to work on the Meenakshi Amman Temple, Madurai, India Gate and Qutub Minar in New Delhi next. "While the monuments are more or less exact simulations, the surroundings may vary," says Athik who was born and brought up in Salem.

During Toycathon 2021, the jury suggested that the three musketeers include an information box about the monument, after all, if Heritage Race and its parent start-up Roverseye.Inc really makes it big, an international audience would like that kind of information. Athik was happy to share with us that they have already incorporated this suggestion. And what did the Prime Minister have to say during their grand finale conducted at the end of June 2021? "He suggested that we create the same game for treadmills. The camera angle will be completely different for this one so it requires a lot of work which we want to focus on soon," says the youngster whose idea was one of the seven which was presented to the Prime Minister.

Talk about cycling for change!

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