3D technology reawakening Europe's past
The secrets hidden inside Europe's historical buildings and sites are being unlocked with the use of advanced 3D technology developed by an EU-funded project. The project is reconstructing such sites virtually - imparting knowledge of Europe's cultural heritage to a wider audience on smartphones and other mobile devices.
© Inception, 2018
The EU-funded INCEPTION project is enriching the European identity by using technology to enhance visitors experiences of cultural heritage sites. The project is reconstructing these sites in 3D to create virtual tours using virtual and augmented reality techniques, an innovation that is mainly used for games in the entertainment industry.
The project is using this technology to visually unmask old stones and relics, revealing the mysteries they hold within. The technology allows the researchers to provide a detailed set of information semantically accessible and, through an application available on its online platform, a look into the past, peeling away the many layers of history contained within a historical site.
The researchers are also creating a new way for cultural heritage to be studied, visualised, curated, displayed and monitored. It is finding a way to store large amounts of data while improving the way we communicate the rich narratives of the past.
We are losing parts of our heritage every day, for different reasons, says INCEPTIONs technical coordinator Federica Maietti, of Università degli Studi di Ferrara, Italy. We are looking at changing this through digitalisation. We are finding new ways to use data and store knowledge, while creating impact.
Using 3D technology
While not new, the generation of high-quality 3D models can be expensive and time-consuming, and the digital reconstructions provided are often in formats that are not easily accessed or re-used by scholars, curators and those working in the field of cultural heritage and in the cultural industries.
Working to overcome this barrier, INCEPTION is using techniques that use 3D data capturing technologies to survey heritage buildings and sites within a holistic digital documentation procedure. These technologies can collect millions of points ¬ spatial coordinates and the data can be integrated with GPS and indoor positioning technologies.
The project team has developed an optimised data acquisition protocol, a common procedure to collect data, and to manage issues related to the 3D survey of complex architectures and to the large amount of captured data and an optimised 3D scanner system with time-saving procedures for data capturing and processing for heritage documentation.
The main INCEPTION innovation is the way in which different steps and processes related to the heritage digitisation and knowledge are linked together through the holistic documentation and within the open-standard semantic web platform.
The projects platform contains, visualises, manages and exchanges technical and popular information of a heritage site through 3D models. This platform can be accessed by experts, curators and interested people through mobile phones and other devices.
Widely available across Europe
INCEPTION is being rolled out across nine different sites in Europe: the Istituto degli Innocenti in Italy, the historic church of Obergum in The Netherlands, Castillo de Torrelobaton in Spain, Old Stone Villages in Dalmatia and the Technical Museum Nikola Tesla in Croatia, Church Panayia Phorviotissa in Cyprus, and in Greece the Akropolis of Erimokastro in Rhodes, Villa Klonaridi in Athens and the HAMH Museum in Hydra.
The project team chose these places to test the system on a mix of heritage sites that vary in size, type, materials, historical periods, state of conservation and needs. Maietti says that the wide variety helps the project test ways to bring together a lot of data and requirements related to heritage knowledge and understanding. The challenge encourages experts from several fields, including design, manufacturing and ICT, to collaborate in developing the 3D platform.
For example, the HAMH Museum in Hydra, Greece, stores important artifacts and historical documents from the 18th and 19th century. The project aims to create a 3D model of the museum so as to increase its visibility and attract more visitors to the museum, while improving accessibility, understanding and appreciation of the value of the building and its exhibits.
The project will develop and test a tour map app for the museum. Users will be able to access a 3D model of the museum either on the internet or by mobile applications.
The team is currently testing the platform and aims to make it available to the public in 2019.
Accessibility is INCEPTIONs key word, Maietti says. We want this to be used by experts, professionals, students and the general public. We want to find a way to interest young people in our past, to find ways for people who cannot leave their home to access museums, to stimulate our curiosity and to bridge the digital and real world.