Mission Statement of the

UCLA

CULTURAL VIRTUAL REALITY LAB

 

 

Background: The UCLA Cultural VR Lab was founded in 1998 by Prof. Bernard Frischer (mailto:frischer@ucla.edu) in collaboration with Prof. Diane Favro of the UCLA Department of Architecture. The mission of the Lab is to create highly accurate 3D computer models of culturally significant sites around the world. Thus far, with support from INTEL, the Creative Kids Education Foundation, and several individual benefactors, the Lab has been focusing on ancient Rome. Models have been made of buildings in the Roman Forum and also of the Early Christian Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. The ROME REBORN project has been covered by the BBC, the New York Times, the Sunday Times of London, Business Week, Scientific American, Panorama, Espresso, the Associated Press, the Discovery Channel, and Reuters. A segment of the project's videotaped virtual tour of the Roman Forum is being shown at the London Millennium Dome and at the London Science Museum in 2000-2001. The Lab's model of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore will be shown in the AUREA ROMA show at the Palace of Exhibitions in Rome in 2000-2001.

Methodology: Differentiating the Lab from a typical graphics company is its commitment to the highest possible scientific accuracy and its ability to create 3D computer models that are scientifically authenticated. The first step in modeling a site is creation of a small Scientific Committee of the world's leading authorities on the site. The committees are appointed by Prof. Frischer and are chaired by Prof. Favro. Members of Scientific Committees have included curators of the Vatican Museums, an American archaeologist who has excavated in the Roman Forum, and the Superintendent of the Roman Forum, Colosseum, and Palatine. Only when a Scientific Committee is satisfied that a model is as up-to-date and faithful as possible is it considered ready for release. Another differentiator of the Lab is its commitment to the high-end realtime 3D modeling software, MultiGen. MultiGen is the standard for realtime VR applications.

Technologies and General uses: 3D models of cultural sites bring the past to life for today's students, scholars and tourists. Models are produced and can run on PCs, but the ideal realtime platform is the Silicon Graphics Onyx2 supercomputer with projection into a CAVE or onto a large curved screen such as is available at UCLA in the http://www.oac.ucla.edu/portal/ of Academic Technology Services. In the Visualization Portal (which is also known by the generic name of Reality Theater) viewers are fully immersed in the virtual world. Not all users have access to a Reality Theater. Thus the UCLA Cultural VR Lab has also found ways to repurpose models to make them available in other media. The models can be put on the World Wide Web in QuickTime format or as MPEG fly-throughs. They can be used as interactive illustrations on DVDs or CD-ROMs. They can serve as "virtual sets" in television or film productions recreating a past event, providing a guided tour of a place that no longer exists,or creating the backdrop for plays or other works of fiction.

Graphic showing how 3D computer models are produced on PCs and used in realtime applications in CAVEs and Reality Theaters on the Silicon Graphics Onyx2 supercomputer. They can also be outputted onto a PC, either directly (e.g., using the EON Reality Player) or via the Internet (e.g., as QuickTime VR models; MPEG video fly-throughs, etc.). Finally, models can be used as "virtual sets" in videos or films, and these products can themselves be posted in digital format on the Internet. In the typical educational application, many of these delivery systems are utilized to permit students to learn from a model in various, complementary ways from total immersion (the Reality Theater or CAVE) to the linear programming of a virtual guided tour on video.

 

Educational applications by the Lab: The UCLA Cultural VR Lab itself maintains Web sites on which models are presented in lighter, QuickTime VR format, and that provides related scholarly and educational materials to facilitate understanding of the site and the related 3D computer model (see ).For example, the Rome Reborn Web site offers visual documentation of a site from antiquity to the present with images taken from the Fototeca Unione at the American Academy in Rome; ancient sources describing a site; plans, sections, and elevations of buildings on the site; bibliography; and (thanks to sponsorship by The Johns Hopkins University Press and Editore Quasar) articles from two recent encyclopedias: L. Richardson, jr., A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (1992); and E.M. Steinby, ed.,Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae, 5 vols. (1993--). All LexiconTopographicum articles written in foreign languages are translated into English. All ancient sources (which in the original encyclopedia articles are normally just cited) are quoted in full with new English translations. Finally, in the Education Department, users can find QuickTime movies with segments from longer videotaped virtual tours of the sites modeled. In the tours, Prof. Frischer(who appears to be projected into the virtual world through use of Hollywood virtual set technology) walks through the models and explains the history, function, and rediscovery of the sites.Users may open a "Script" window, in which the text spoken by Prof. Frischer may be read. And important words in the script are linked to a related Glossary window. Meanwhile, the full video tour, in BETA SP or VHS format, is available upon request from the Lab at a nominal fee for noncommercial use.

Current project: "ROME REBORN," a 3D computer model of imperial Rome.

Projects in development: The Lab is developing projects to model sites in Egypt, France, Greece, Israel, Peru, and Spain.

Lab affiliations: CINECA, the supercomputing center of Italy; the UCLA Center for Digital Innovation; the UCLA Humanities Computing Facility; the Index of Jewish Art; the UC Berkeley Visualization Center.

Endorsements of the Lab: These include the American Philological Association; the Hon. Francesco Rutelli, Mayor of Rome; Prof. Adriano La Regina, Superintendent of the Roman Forum, Palatine, and Colosseum; Prof. Eugenio La Rocca, Superintendent, Galleries, Monuments, and Museums of the City of Rome; Dr. Paolo Liverani, Curator of Antiquities, Vatican Museums; Prof. Bezaliel Narkiss, Director Emeritus, Index of Jewish Art; Prof. Pauline Yu, Dean of Humanities, UCLA; Prof. Lawrence Richardson, jr.; Prof. Eva Margarita Steinby.

Current sponsors (1999-2000): The Creative Kids Education Foundation; Kirk Mathews; Daniel and Joanna Rose.

Past sponsors: Alitalia, Canyon Video, Design Visualization Partners, Digital Media Interactive, Evans & Sutherland, Intel,KPMG Peat Marwick ICE Division, The Production Group, Stream,Tecnark Italia, UCLA College of Letters and Science, UCLA Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research.

How to use the Lab: The Lab is eager to offer its services to scholars and others who wish to create highly accurate and visually stunning 3D computer models of significant cultural sites.

How to support the Lab: The Cultural VR Lab relies entirely on gifts and contracts. If you share our vision of bringing the power of 3D realtime models of the world's cultural heritage to students in the twenty-first century, please become a sponsor of the Lab!

Contact Information: Prof. Bernard Frischer, Director,e-mail frischer@ucla.edu,tel. (310) 313-3739; cell (310) 266-6935; fax (310)391-1460; postal 3441 Butler Avenue, L.A., CA, U.S.A. 90066-2117


Date: January 30, 2000.