eHeritage:History springs back to life via virtual reality
By University of Transilvania of Brasov, Jožef Stefan Institute and Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna
The EU-funded eHeritage project uses advances in information technology and recent progress in virtual reality (VR) applications to bring new life to history, making it easier to preserve Europe’s cultural heritage.
In creating applications for cultural heritage sites in this way, eHeritage contributes to the spread of knowledge in the fields of history and the arts. The applications could involve creating an online 3D version of an 18th century book or developing an immersive VR experience in a museum or an art gallery — attracting the interest of more people in Europe’s history and heritage.
The project supports and expands the capacity of the Virtual Reality and Robotics Department (VRRD) of the Transilvania University of Brasov (UTBv) in Romania to interact through twinning with research centres at Slovenia’s Jožef Stefan Institute in Ljubljana and Italy’s Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in Pisa.
In this way, the Romanian researchers are better able to cooperate with internationally recognised leaders in this technology with the main objective of eHeritage being the development of a centre of excellence in virtual heritage.
“The general objective of the eHeritage project is to increase the capacity, quality and extent of the research staff of Transilvania University of Brasov, by establishing strong and sustainable research cooperation schemes with the partners, based on close scientific and social interaction,” says project coordinator Mihai Duguleana of UTBv.
A unit of this kind in Romania, specialised in creating applications for cultural heritage sites, is also a first step towards consolidating research in Eastern Europe. Close collaboration is already underway with the Ovidius University in Constanta in Romania and there is growing interest from local authorities.
The project goals of sharing knowledge and results, gaining experience and new information and interacting with other like-minded professionals, have had a cumulative effect.
“Our consortium has produced over 20 research papers, and we estimate reaching 30 research papers by the end of the project,” says Duguleana.
While eHeritage is more about knowledge transfer and growing a network of partners, it has attracted wider attention through a series of public events and exhibitions, the most recent being a 3D online version of a book on the criminal code of Austria and Bohemia presenting 18th century torture instruments and techniques and their regulation.
A copy of the book stored in the History Museum of Brasov was not accessible to the general public until eHeritage used 3D VR techniques to bring its contents to life. It is one of a number of VR infotainment installations developed for museums using tactile and holographic technologies.
The expertise of the eHeritage team includes augmented reality as well as virtual reality, 3D photogrammetry reconstruction and haptics, a form of interaction involving touch. Interest is widespread and thousands of people have participated in events that have included presentation of the haptic bow, allowing users to experience shooting a bow and arrow with sensory feedback.
The team has also used photogrammetry to scan and digitally store 3D models of various landmarks in the Brasov region. These include several fortified churches presented on custom-made holographic stands, attracting the attention of museum and church curators, local authorities and other specialists both in Romania and abroad.
The attention is a direct result of the interest generated by eHeritage and a step towards expanding the reach of the project.
“Experiencing various technologies improved our perspective on the scope of the project and allowed us to access a wide range of interested people,” explains Duguleana.