Virtual Romans iPad App

Screen shots of the Virtual Romans iPad App showing main screen, one of the augmented reality interiors, rotatable 3D model of one of the buildings and a rotatable 3D representation of one of the artifacts.

Screen shots of the Virtual Romans iPad App showing main screen, one of the augmented reality interiors, rotatable 3D model of one of the buildings and a rotatable 3D representation of one of the artifacts.

Our colleagues Dave Everitt, Nick Higgett and Eric Tatham and PhD students Russell White and Gerardo Saucedo have produced an iPAD app for Leicester City Museums, called “Virtual Romans.” It breaks new ground in architectural and archaeological visualization of artifacts and buildings, in this case for Roman Leicester. Not only does it have text and still images geo-located to maps – as most guidebook apps do but it also has real-time augmented reality reconstructions of some of Leicester’s Roman buildings. With the augmented reality feature of the app, you can hold up the ipad and move it around like a window in which the 3D virtually reconstructed roman buildings appear in real-time superimposed on the real scene in front of the iPad. This changes as you walk around and as you alter the way you are facing. There’s a warning before you enter this mode of the app which says, “Please take care when using this App. Please be aware of tripping hazards, obstructions, traffic and other people.” And the warning is timely because quickly you get absorbed into exploring this fascinating combination of the virtual and real. There are archaeological objects too. Using a photogrammetry process, photorealistic 3D recreations archaeological artifacts have been incorporated into the app which you can spin around using your finger and zoom into to examine fine detail. There is text explaining all about them and they are linked to a map of Roman Leicester so that you can see where they were found. In fact there are six choices of map type including the roman plan of the city, its modern equivalent, aerial images, tourist trails and combinations of these. As if this was not enough there are also 3D models of the Romano-British buildings which you can also spin around with your finger on screen and there is a very neat compass in the form a Roman annular brooch which shows you the real direction of where the building was and the distance to it in Roman stadia and in meters. The whole app has a purpose designed graphic interface with images derived from some of the famous Roman mosaic pavements found in Leicester and for the visitor there are a series of Roman game counters which allow you track which buildings and artifacts you’ve visited in virtual and in real life.  The app is in a Beta+ phase of development and will be available this year.

About Douglas Cawthorne

Reader in Digital Heritage at De Montfort University.
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