p2pnet.net News:- Visitors to Pompeii and other archaeological sites may soon be able to see more than just the frescos, taverns and villas.

They'll also be able to watch the people who lived there before the catastrophic eruption of Vesuvius destroyed the city in AD79.

The Lifeplus project is part of the European Union's 'Information Society Technologies' (IST) initiative aimed at promoting a user-friendly information society and enhancing European cultural heritage.

First demonstrated at Pompeii, the system combines the visitor's view of the site with computer-generated sound and animation in a head-mounted display (HMD).

"As the visitor moves through the site wearing a backpack-mounted computer, a miniature camera mounted on the HMD captures the view and feeds it to software running on the computer where the visitor's viewpoint of the scene is combined with animated virtual elements before being fed back to the displaym" says Britain's 2d3, the company developing the real-time camera tracking technology.

"The visitor experiences not only the actual site, but also sees it peopled with Pompeian citizens going about their business before the disaster that befell the city," says 2d3, going on:

"Lifeplus for the first time deploys technologies that can generate augmented reality in real-time, as a visitor walks unhindered through the site.

"The technologies combining to create the characters in the scene use leading-edge techniques in hair and cloth simulation, skin rendering and interactive programmable shading, and plant simulation; with artificial life algorithms for behavioural animation of the virtual characters, and facial emotion software for realistic expressions."

Virtual reality simulations deliver an entirely computer-generated scene to the viewer, but Lifeplus provides a more immediate and realistic visualisation by combining live video of the site with the virtual elements to create the augmented reality experience, says 2d3.

Software interprets the visitor's view, seen through the head-mounted miniature camera, to derive the positional and perspective information crucial for an accurate match between the real and virtual elements and 2d3 is responsible for this component.

"2d3's technology automates the matching of virtual and real by reading the geometry of the scene and calculating the exact motion of the camera within it to allow the added computer generated elements to 'sit' in the scene realistically," says the company

For Lifeplus, 2d3 adapted its software to perform in real-time.

"We've used leading-edge computer-vision techniques in our products for several years now, but this is the first time that anyone has been able to move a camera through a scene and have the software to work out in real-time where it is and how it's moving," says the company's Andrew Stoddart."