Friday, May 28, 2010

Projects from the UCLA Cultural Virtual Reality Laboratory

Two interesting projects from the UCLA Cultural Virtual Reality Laboratory :

Digital Karnak

Through at least three thousand years of development, from local shrine in a regional town to national center of power, the temple of Amun-Ra at Karnak has known dramatic modifications tied in with political shifts, religious reform and ritual changes. As a legacy of a culture where every aspect of life was permeated with religion, the study of this temple complex touches upon every factor of human existence in ancient Egypt. Karnak therefore presents an excellent entry for understanding more about all aspects of ancient Egyptian culture and the study of its legacy.

The Digital Karnak Project aims to make the site of Karnak more accessible to students and instructors in the English-speaking world. The features of this website have been designed to provide college classrooms (and the interested public) with easily accessible, up-to-date, expert material relating to the temple precinct. As part of this goal, a 3-D Virtual Reality model of the temple was constructed, offering students a completely new way to view the temple: reign-by-reign, following the complex patterns of royal construction, modification and destruction that are now obscured by the latest building phases at the site. Footage of this model, as well as original videos and maps, are accompanied by thematic essays written and reviewed by Egyptologists to supply students and instructors with reliable information in a digital and visually dynamic platform. A simplified version of the Virtual Reality model of the temple is also made available in Google Earth, for a completely interactive experience.

A team of noted Egyptologists, educators, architects, and technologists were brought together to develop learning resources related to the Temple at Karnak in Egypt. The project had three primary goals: (1) to assemble databases of information related to Karnak, (2) build an interactive computer model of the site, and (3) create a series of resources using the model and databases that are available online free-of-charge through this website and can be easily used for undergraduate education.

The Digital Karnak Project combines the experience and talent of two sections of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA): the Experiential Technologies Center (ETC) and the UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology (UEE). Directed by Dr. Diane Favro through the School of the Arts and Architecture with support from UCLA’s Academic Technology Services, the ETC uses powerful information technology tools to support creative and cross-disciplinary research in archaeology, architecture, humanities, social sciences, and the performing arts. Dr. Willeke Wendrich of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures is director of the UCLA Digital Humanities Incubator Group (UDHIG) and the editor-in-chief of the online UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology (UEE), a repository for scholarly content related to Egypt.

The Digital Karnak Project was funded in part with a grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH). Financial assistance was also provided by the Steinmetz Family Trust. Staff assistance and computing infrastructure was provided by UCLA's Institute for Digital Research and Education (IDRE) and UCLA's Academic Technology Services (ATS).

Digital Roman Forum

From 1997 to 2003 the Cultural Virtual Reality Laboratory (CVRLab) created a digital model of the Roman Forum as it appeared in late antiquity. The notional date of the model is June 21, 400 A.D.

The purpose of the modeling project was to spatialize information and theories about how the Forum looked at this moment in time, which was more or less the height of its development as Rome's civic and cultural center. The digital model includes over twenty features (buildings and major monuments) filling up the western zone of the Roman Forum from the Temple of Vesta and Temple of Antoninus and Faustina on the east to the Tabularium facing the western slope of the Capitoline Hill.

Thanks to archaeological campaigns that started in the early nineteenth century and which continue to the present day, these features can be seen in Rome today and constitute one of the city's most important archaeological sites. Their state of preservation varies from fair to poor; and the ruins seen today represent a mixture of different phases in the life of the Forum. As a result, understanding the Forum is a challenging task not only for tourists but also for scholars. Almost as soon as the new excavations started bringing the ancient remains to light, archaeologists such as Canina, Huelsen, Gatteschi, and Gismondi started to create graphic and physical reconstructions of how the Forum might have looked at specific moments in time. The CVRLab digital model, created with the help of an international Scientific Advisory Committee, is the latest example of this perennial project.

From the time the modeling project was conceived, the investigators intended to present their results to students, scholars and the general public. The digital model of the Forum can be viewed on various hardware and software platforms. These range from simple static views that can be displayed on a computer monitor to dedicated visualization theaters costs hundreds of thousands of dollars or more.

With generous support from the National Science Foundation, the CVRLab was able to create this Web site about the digital Forum model from 2002 to 2005. The purposes of this site are: (1) to use the Internet to permit free use and easy viewing of the digital model by people all over the world; (2) to provide documentation for the archaeological evidence and theories utilized to create the model; and (3) to offer basic information about the individual features comprising the digital model so that their history and cultural context can be readily understood.

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