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Virtual reality allows drive over Mississippi bridge three years before it opens

The experience will also let people walk alongside the road, scale the bridge and dive into the river.

People can travel virtually from Iowa to Illinois as though they were in a car or scale the bridge to stand atop of the arch.

But when people have had enough of the view above the water then can also dive into the river to see the wildlife that lives in the Mississippi.

The I-74 virtual reality experience has been made to help motorists envisage what the finished bridge will look like. It is due for completion in 2021.

It has been created at Iowa State University thanks to a link between its Virtual Reality Applications Centre and the Institute for Transportation with the Iowa Department of Transportation.

The old suspension bridge is also seen in the VR take.

VR view over the Mississippi bridge from Iowa (Iowa State University/Iowa Department of Transportation)

Nir Keren, an associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering who oversaw the simulation’s design, said the system brings into focus the end result of a massive multi-year construction project.

“Every time you think of construction on this scale, it’s easy to lose sight of what it’s going to look like at the end.

But if you can actually see the end product, that keeps people excited.”

Creating the simulation took six months with the four designers having to work up the interactive model from construction diagrams.

One challenge was accurately capturing the way sunshine reflects from the bridge’s frame.

VR view over the Mississippi bridge from Iowa (Iowa State University/Iowa Department of Transportation)

As well as acting as drivers in the VR set-up, users can walk over the top of the archway or stroll along a wide path reserved for pedestrians and cyclists.

They will also be able to see into the water on a glass-bottomed viewing platform.

Underneath the water, the VR experience raises awareness of threatened mussel species which had to be relocated before the construction work could begin.

The VR experience will tour locations in Iowa and Illinois.

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