One article describes the University of New York at Buffalos Virtual Site Museum: “an interactive virtual reality interface for… archaeological research, education, and public demonstration…. precise, authoritative, and integrated archaeological and historical files… Running in real-time, it provides full-body immersion, 3D ancient figure animation, and a virtual artifacts interface and corresponding user-oriented interactions in a functional virtual environment.” The site allows you to view short movies. Our expectations of games are now so high that these look quite primitive, but no doubt they are good for their purpose.
Another paper describes the Virtual Old Prague project. Sadly, I cant get this to work: I downloaded the Cortona VRML client as advised, but I think Ihave a Java error. For me one of the most interesting things about this project is that it is written in PHP.There are very full notes about it; interestingly, it envisages users adding to the model: “The system also provides a set of tools and a know-how that can be used by general public to create new parts of Prague and by system administrators to manage the whole model….. Another application vastly reduces the work necessary to create a new model of a building that can then be added to the database. The last tool is a web interface that provides to users information necessary for creation of new buildings (position, size, elevation,…) and enables them to upload newly created buildings to the database. A set of instructions describing how to transfer a real building into a texture that can be used for building creation is also provided and is available in this documentation as well as documentation for all parts of the system.”
Another Presences article describes the Augurscope, “a portable mixed reality interface for outdoors…. a display is wheeled to different locations and rotated and tilted to view a virtual environment that is aligned with the physical background. Video from an onboard camera is embedded into this virtual environment. Our design encompasses physical form, interaction and the combination of a GPS receiver, electronic compass, accelerometer and rotary encoder for tracking. ” Presences says: “While exploring a heritage site, groups of visitors can experience simulated scenes from the past from a dynamic user-controlled viewpoint by moving, rotating, and tilting the device. The development focused on creating an interface to a visualization of a medieval castle as it used to appear in relation to its current, quite different site”. Here the system is beingused to enhance reality – hi-tech version of a tour guide perhaps?
Presences also covers a Birmingham University project to re-purpose seismic data to model a pre-historic landscape. Personally Im not very moved by descriptions of “the exceptionally warm interglacial known as the Ipswichian (130,000 – 110,000), when hippopotami roamed Trafalgar Square”, but once again this offers a kind of virtual enahncement of the visual landscape.
In other words, these techniques offer th ability to recreate existing or past landscapes for those who are not there, or to enhance the perceptions of reality for those who are there.
The Presences edition is not the only sign of interest in this area. For instance, the 11th international conference on virtual systems and multimedia” included papers on simulations of: the Roman Odeon of Aphrodisias, Hampton Court Palace and (like Presences)Yuanmingyuan gardens.
The Swiss company CyberCity is alsoa ctive in this field and has just released a digital Hamburg: “The city model includes more than 300.000 buildings and will be offered in three different Levels-of-Detail: non-textured block models, non-textured detailed models and textured detailed models. The city center will consist of over 2.000 buildings and will include approximately 40.000 façade images.” This is partly funded by the city administration.
Compare this with feeble attempts like
– Virtual Venice
– yet another
Virtual Venice– all just slide shows
– or another Virtual Venice which seems to be someone just camping on a nice domain name
– or a strange and tedious online game (last updated in 1994 and appears to be entirely typed-in dialogue)
and you see how far things are coming along.
Venice is so full of tourists these days that the authorities are thinking of controlling entry to the city (as already happens at the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua). Perhaps one day there will be two-level access: actual, for the rich, and virtual, for the rest of us? I hope it doesnt go that way: rather that the virtual enhances the actual experience.