Monday, July 7, 2008

Pompeii Cyberwalk Seeks to Reduce Visitor Damage to Pompeii

Apparently a collaboration of the University of Rome with cybernetic companies like the Max Plank Institute for Biological Cybernetics, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETHZ) and the Munich Technical University has produced a virtual Pompeii Cyberwalk using an omnidirectional treadmill:

The Institute of Conservation reports:

"Growing numbers of tourists and visitors can pose serious problems for many fragile historic sites. The conservation of valuable documents in archives has for some time increasingly depended on the creation of digital surrogate copies, but the challenges surrounding the creation of a digital surrogate of an entire ancient city have proved too daunting until now. This week, it will be possible for the first time to - literally - take a stroll around virtual Pompeii.

A stroll around Pompeii is not just virtual reality – it involves real walking. Instead of sitting at a computer looking at a virtual streetscape, the ‘visitor’ walks - or even runs - on a multidirectional treadmill. As they move naturally, a 3-D headset changes the visitor’s view of the Pompeii streets so they can literally walk around a city which has not existed for 2000 years.

The walk around Pompeii is possible thanks to an EU-funded collaboration between the Max Plank Institute for Biological Cybernetics, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETHZ), the University of Rome (La Sapienza), the Munich Technical University

Visitor numbers to heritage sites around the world continue to soar. It is expected that by 2020 there will be 1.6 billion international travellers per year, compared with 663 million in 1999. Over 16.5m Chinese tourists ventured abroad in 2002, twice as many as in 1998. The number of visitor to the Louvre rose from 5.6 million in 2001 to 8.35 million in 2006. In 2005 Angkor Wat received 1m visitors, Pompeii 2m, the Alhambra 2.2m and even Macchu Picchu has climbed well past 0.5m per year, growing at about 6% annually. If the world’s architectural heritage is not to be trampled flat by eager visitors, new ways have to be found of managing visitor numbers, and it is possible that a new generation of virtual reality experiences will have a part to play in this. It is not yet clear though whether high-tech encounters such as the Pompeii Cyberwalk will satisfy people’s desire for contact with the past – or whether they will just make the problem worse by stimulating their curiosity for ‘the real thing’ even further. "

There's a fascinating movie about the project at:
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