A clay pot, an arrowhead, a delicately carved bone bead - taken in isolation, the artefacts of bygone ages don't convey much information to the untrained observer. Immersive 3D technologies are opening up new ways to provide context for individual objects, or across entire cultural heritage sites. An EU-funded project is advancing key techniques.
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Imagine stepping right into the past. Virtual reality can offer the next best thing until someone actually invents a time machine, and augmented reality can help to add a new dimension to the objects and places that we view. Launched in June 2015, the DigiArt project strives to take these immersive technologies forward.
It is a multidisciplinary partnership, where archaeologists and anthropologists collaborate with engineers and computer experts to address challenges and innovate. Together, they aim to develop new, cost-effective solutions that will combine images and information — notably acquired by drones and scans — into immersive, interactive 3D displays.
Further work will focus on connecting individual artefacts online to create an “internet of historical things”. Such a virtual collection will enable experts and other enthusiasts to access high-quality material online, allowing them to study pieces that might otherwise have been difficult to access. DigiArt intends to generate the hyperlinks between these objects automatically, by means of semantic analysis based on automatic feature extraction.
…with immersive 3D technology
Drawing on its combined know-how with regard to data capture and processing, story building, visualisation and 3D interaction, the project intends to develop a toolkit that will support museums with the creation of such immersive experiences.
As part of the project’s demonstration activities, the techniques will be trialled in three locations — such as the Scladina cave in Belgium, where the partners will strive to recreate a slice of prehistoric life.