mm033: ‘Rome Reborn’ Model Pushes Frontiers of 3-D Simulation

I can’t help myself, this is just cool. From Wired by way of SciTech Daily Review (–>).

‘Rome Reborn’ Model Pushes Frontiers of 3-D Simulation

Andrew Curry Email 06.14.07 | 2:00 AM

Looking out from the Roman Forum in a complete 3-D model of Rome.
Image: Copyright of the Regents of the University of California 2007

Rome was at its peak in the fourth century, with over a million inhabitants. It was the largest metropolis the world had ever seen: Not until Victorian London, 1500 years later, did an urban area surpass Rome’s size. This week, an unusual combination of classicists, engineers and archaeologists unveiled something not even HBO and Hollywood could manage – a complete 3-D model of Rome, circa 320 A.D.

It’s a huge model for a huge city. Running a fly-through, real-time model of the ancient city requires serious processing power. “It’s a big engineering problem to have a big model of something that has to be rendered that fast,” says Bernard Frischer, director of the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia and the “Rome Reborn” project’s organizer.

View of the 3-D modeled Colosseum.

Image: Copyright of the Regents of the University of California 2007

To create the digital model, researchers scanned a 3,000 square foot, 1/250 plaster model of the city – the “Plastico di Roma Antica” – which was completed in the 1970s. Because of the model’s intricacy – the Plastico’s Coliseum is only 8 inches tall — Italian engineers used laser radar originally designed to measure precise tolerances on jet parts to scan within a tenth of a millimeter. Each 6-by-6 section contained 60 million data points.

Digitizing the scan produced amazing results: a fly-through model of the entire city, street by street, column by column. Yesterday’s demonstration ran on a $2500 Shuttle PC equipped with a 1.5-Gb invidia graphics card that pumps out 30 frames per second, a refreshing change from the $500,000 UCLA mainframe test versions ran on in the late 1990s. The resolution is good enough to run on a movie screen. “We thank gamers for wasting all that time and money – that has really encouraged companies to invest in graphics cards and PCs,” Frischer says.

Frischer’s goal is to create a “moderated wiki” for Rome scholars to use as an online forum. Archaeologists can add or change buildings or monuments as new evidence is unearthed, architects can explore the city’s sightlines and traffic flows and art historians can add details and information to buildings that have been scanned by other teams.

Birds eye view of the digital Rome.

Image: Copyright of the Regents of the University of California 2007

Scholars hope the digital Rome will lead to a new understanding of how the city worked. “How we gather information defines how we understand the city,” says Dean Abernathy, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Architecture. “Publications made to go in a book end at the edge of the page. This gives you the whole context.”

But it won’t just be for academics. “Rome Reborn” has been licensed to a tour company in Rome, and was officially unveiled by Rome’s mayor June 11. In April 2008, an orientation film based on the model (“Rewind Rome”) will open in a converted playhouse across from the Coliseum to give tourists a sense of the city’s past, and dedicated PDA/GPS devices will let them walk the city and see what the view in front of them once looked like. And at some point it might be even easier to travel back in time: Frischer says he’s in talks with online community Second Life as well.‘Rome Reborn’ Model Pushes Frontiers of 3-D Simulation

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One Response to mm033: ‘Rome Reborn’ Model Pushes Frontiers of 3-D Simulation

  1. Dude, please tell me that youre going to publish much more. I notice you havent written another weblog for a while (Im just catching up myself). Your weblog is just too important to become missed. Youve got so very much to say, this kind of knowledge about this subject it would be a shame to see this weblog disappear. The internet needs you, man!

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