By Dean Vaglia
Leader Staff Writer
When Oxford High School prepared to resume for the winter semester, there was debate on whether the memorial along Oxford Rd. would remain.
Ultimately the memorial was taken down and the signs, flowers, items and other gestures of support were moved, but not before the memorial was digitally preserved.
Spurred on by Oakland County Emergency Management, facilitated by the West Bloomfield Police Department (WBPD) and NOAR Technologies and hosted and maintained by KitelyTech, the Oxford High School Virtual Memorial allows people to look around a 3D scan of the memorial. The scan was gifted to Oxford Community Schools on March 15.
Interacting with the preserved memorial on the website (www.ohsvirtualmemorial.com) is similar to using Google Street View. Users load into a re-creation of the memorial and are able to click around to different sections, as well as zoom in and out to see fine details or the memorial as a whole.
According to WBPD Community Relations/Crime Prevention Officer James Pettinato, the idea began with Oakland County Emergency Management.
“It was an idea [from] one of our former sergeants, Darin Page,” Pettinato said. “He works there now and he was very involved with the whole Oxford aftermath.”
Page, thinking there was a way to digitally preserve the memorial, reached out to his former department knowing they own a NOAR 3D scanner typically used to digitally preserve crime scenes. West Bloomfield took up the call and went to Oxford alongside NOAR personnel.
“Once they presented us with the opportunity … I personally took [the project] and ran with it,” Michelle Studer, NOAR vice president, said. “Knowing, after being in the industry for 13 years, what will come out of that point cloud, you have to take it a step further to make it that immersive experience.”
Due to being a Lake Orion resident living so close to the incident, Studer made sure the memorial was captured in the most immersive way possible.
“We wanted to make sure people still had a place to visit in this interim period between when the school board can work on creating something more permanent in regards to a memorial, but still allowing them to revisit what was there if that is what brings them comfort” Studer said.
Both NOAR and WBPD made scans of the memorial, though Pettinato says NOAR’s scan is what made it to the website.
“I would give the credit to NOAR Technologies for this project,” Pettinato said.
The memorial has received generally positive feedback since going online, with many visitors leaving comments on the website
“Within the first five hours of going live after I presented it to the Oxford school board, I got a really heartfelt message from a 2017 OHS graduate,” Studer said. “She reached out and said that for the first time since going through all this they actually felt seen, heard, supported and loved.”
By Dean Vaglia