Last week I wrote a lengthy blogpost on IBM's virtual Forbidden city and wondered:
"The first time I walked the city and marvelled at its detail, I thought back to my days at Ancient Sites and wondered how it would be to walk from this city, to say ancient Rome or Athens, to have multiple sites like these exist. "
Fortunately I'm not the only one to think that Virtual Worlds can play an enormous role in our educational system in terms of recreating our cultural heritage. Today I came across Joe Rigby's blog, MellaniuM where he explores how virtual environments can aid in this way. There's a number of blogposts on his site I'd like to point out. Especially in regard to quoting myself above, here's part of a blogpost titled Archaeological Serendipity:
"Just imagine wandering at your leisure through a recreation of Athens or Rome at the height of their power and influence. At MellaniuM our very "raison d'etre" could be distilled as the creation, nay, I should say the actual resurrection at a virtual realistic level of the achaeological remnants of these glorious civilisations. Indeed there are vast assets of 3D models in databanks of acedemic institutions around the world which have been used to provide vistas and fly-through movies of the plethora of cities which flourished in the core of ancient civilizations from Mesopotamia to Egypt and from Athens to Rome. These models can now be used to their full potential to create a vast interactive space available for hundreds of participants from all over the World. What an experience it would be to be immersed with your friends in walking around these cities? To explore the art and decorations of some sumptuous villa in Pompeii or walk through the Parthenon as it was on the first day it was completed by Pericles in 435BC.
It has been stated that it will be another 5 years before this feat of virtual representation can be accomplished"
Read full blogpost here. A second post I'd like to point out is the most recent entry to the MellanniuM blog, titled Industrial Archaeology.
"Could you imagine that MellaniuM virtual realistic environments would ever connect industrial cultural heritage and a massive intrusion of granite under the South-West tip of England?
Well MellaniuM will be participating in the VAST 2008 workshop "Serious Games and Cultural Heritage”. As an example of virtual engineering we have recently finalised the replica of a famous old steam locomotive 0-6-0 “Jinty” 47279 designed originally in the early 20th century and still running at the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway."
Read the full blogpost here.
Now, you might start to wonder if there's an end to my interest, but this is once again a great hobby of mine. Actually, while writing this, I even start wondering how it is possible to find time enough to actually get some work done. Truth is, I like railroads, and especially the early railroads. In real life we just bought a new house which finally has enough room on the attic again to set up a new railroad and in the past months I've done some research on the great first years of Railroads in England and Scotland. As I'm also a Wiskey lover I'd been working on a railroad plan along the Great North of Scotland railroads, with its numerous branches like the Banff - Strathisla railway which provides narrative and scenery for the model railroad I'm designing, but now I'm ranting.
Anyway, in the real world we may visit historic sites, but many of these treasures have been lost, buildings as well as classic trains due to wars, reconstructions or just by rusting away in some trainyard. I'm sure virtual environments can work miracles in education in many ways. One option, like for example Joe's recreation of the Jinty in Second Life is just to provide an image of things lost to real life, but another approach is to exactly recreate the engine, make it larger so you can walk through and use it in a course to explain the history of engineering. This is also a thing we could do with historic structures. In medieval buildings there are various solutions in preventing the roofs to collapse. They didn't have steel or concrete beams strong enough to hold up the roof, so they had to use tricks. In a virtual environment with a proper physics engine you can demonstrate what happens if you take out a keystone for instance, something which you wouldn't do with a real life monument, just to demonstrate your teachings ;).