25 June 2006

Experiencing digitally resurrected cultural heritage sites

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EPOCH's digital reconstruction of part of the ancient city of Sagalassos
Most of us find it rather hard to picture ancient times when viewing old bones and stone fragments in dusty museum display cabinets. Now archaeological artefacts can come alive with the help of EPOCH, a European research project that uses augmented reality, computer game and 3D-image technology to resurrect cultural heritage sites, according to IST Results, the online magazine of the European Commission’s Information Society Technologies (IST) research initiative.

“From an archaeological point of view, it now becomes possible to reconstruct large sites at low cost. Previously, 3D modelling has all too often focused on a limited number of landmark buildings, without the context of sites surrounding them. Producing entire city models was just too expensive, so we got a Parthenon without Athens, and a Colosseum without Rome. Thanks to EPOCH this no longer needs to be the case,” explains the University of Leuven’s Prof Luc Van Gool.

Computer-generated humans – avatars, will act as multilingual guides in this computer-generated world, explaining about the visited site. With the help of interactive storytelling, visitors will be able to personalise the story according to their interests and the time available for the visit, explains Franco Niccolucci, EPOCH Director for Training and Dissemination at Florence University.

To further enhance the user experience the project has developed a cost-efficient prototype that uses widespread techniques known as ‘rapid prototyping’ and 3D scanning.

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