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Digging Digital History – Stereo virtual reality adds a cool new way to experience the distant past today

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Museums should know better than anyone how easy it is to become extinct. They literally have shelves lined with long-lost species, cultures and technology that couldn’t survive our ever-changing times. But a radical new approach to museum exhibition will perhaps open a door for younger patrons to learn from the past.

digging digital history museum patrons 300x168 Digging Digital History  Stereo virtual reality adds a cool new way to experience the distant past today Dassault Systèmes, the 3DEXPERIENCE Company, 3D Digital Mock Up and Product Lifecycle Management Solutions have teamed up to create Giza 3D, an interactive 3D re-creation of Egypt’s famed Giza plateau, home of the Giza Necropolis. They’ve taken a three-pronged approach to bringing the past to life.

First, the free Giza 3D interactive application is available online at 3ds.com/giza3D for anyone to explore (and for those with NVIDIA 3D Vision or some other stereoscopic 3D technology, they can do it in 3D). But the second stage is even more interesting: a touring version of Giza 3D that uses the latest virtual reality technology. It debuted at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and will make its way around the country this year, offering visitors the opportunity to step back in time and explore this archaeological site in 3D.

digging digital history pyramids 300x175 Digging Digital History  Stereo virtual reality adds a cool new way to experience the distant past today “The idea when we create a 3D experience is to have it running on any screen,” says Mehdi Tayoubi, vice president of Digital and Experiential Strategy, Dassault Systèmes. “One of the great capabilities that we have with our technology is the level of interactivity available in one 3D experience across multiple scenarios.”

That third prong of Giza 3D is taking place at Harvard University, where Dr. Peter Der Manuelian, the Philip J. King Professor of Egyptology, is using it to teach his students — all wearing 3D glasses — about ancient Egypt in an immersive way. The Giza 3D site allows users, or instructors, to roam at will throughout the Necropolis, visit carefully restored tombs, shafts, and connected burial chambers and enter four of the site’s ancient temples, including Khufu and Menkaure’s pyramids. They can browse contemporary and ancient pictures and view 30 objects meticulously reconstructed in 3D. The site can also access photos, field journals, maps and other items from the MFA’s Giza Archives Web site to support an extended learning experience.

digging digital history closeup 300x175 Digging Digital History  Stereo virtual reality adds a cool new way to experience the distant past today Der Manuelian says this project resonates across multiple levels. The general public will find an easy way to access the best available source of information about the Giza plateau, revolutionizing how Egyptological knowledge is shared. The academic world will find a powerful tool to teach Ancient Egypt studies and help students better retain this knowledge. Researchers will benefit from seeing 3D objects from multiple angles, such as inscriptions on the back of a statue typically not seen within museum glass displays, or from sharing 3D-based information to help test hypotheses. And museum exhibition planners can consider using a 3D immersive device to enhance exhibit viewing options. Giza 3D can also enhance the in-person visit to museums through interactive 3D displays and powerful 3D images that make the museum experience an even more memorable one.

“Giza 3D is a powerful example of how our 3DEXPERIENCE platform powers applications that can change research and knowledge-sharing forever,” says Monica Menghini, executive vice president of Industry, Dassault Systèmes. “Today, the archaeological site of Giza is within reach of everyone. A simple home computer is sufficient to experience the wonders of ancient Egypt, and with a 3D TV it’s possible to have an immersive stereoscopic experience. The use of immersive rooms permits viewers to travel in space and time with unrivaled realism.”

“The use of immersive rooms permits viewers to travel in space and time with unrivaled realism.”

Tayoubi adds that this project, which is ongoing, shows a glimpse into the future of museums as well. While traditional display cases of artifacts won’t vanish any time soon, these antiquities will be complemented by new technology that will open doorways into the past, which may be another incentive for you to make that trip to your local museum — that one you may have heard about but never got around to checking out.

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