old-fashioned audio tour of historical places could soon be replaced
with computer-generated images that bring the site to life.
Visitors would have to wear a head-mounted
A European Union-funded project is looking at providing tourists
with computer-augmented versions of archaeological attractions.
It would allow visitors a glimpse of life as it was originally
lived in places such as Pompeii.
It could pave the way for a new form of cultural tourism.
Combining real and virtual
The technology would allow digital people and other
computer-generated elements to be combined with the actual view seen
by tourists as they walk around an historical site.
Lifeplus project is part of the EU's Information Society
Technologies initiative aimed at promoting user-friendly technology
and enhancing European cultural heritage.
Pompeii would be peopled by computer-generated
Engineers and researchers working in the Europe-wide consortium
have come up with a prototype augmented-reality system.
It would require the visitor to wear a head-mounted display with
a miniature camera and a backpack computer.
The camera captures the view and feeds it to software on the
computer where the visitor's viewpoint is combined with animated
At Pompeii for example, the visitor would not just see the
frescos, taverns and villas that have been excavated, but also
people going about their daily life.
Augmented reality has been used to create special effects in
films such as Troy and Lord of the Rings and in computer gaming.
Bringing past to life
"This technology can now be used for much more than just computer
games," said Professor Nadia Magnenat-Thalman of the Swiss research
"We are, for
the first time, able to run this combination of software processes
to create walking, talking people with believable clothing, skin and
hair in real-time," she said.
Unlike virtual reality, which delivers an entirely
computer-generated scene to the viewer, the Lifeplus project is
about combining digital and real views.
Crucial to the technique is the software that interprets the
visitor's view and provides an accurate match between the real and
The software capable of doing this has been developed by a UK
company, 2d3. Andrew Stoddart, chief scientist at 2d3, said that the
EU project has been driven by a new desire to bring the past to
"The popularity of television documentaries and dramatisations
using computer-generated imagery to recreate scenes from ancient
history demonstrates the widespread appeal of bringing ancient
cultures to life," he said.