We explore the use of 3D reconstruction and visualisation for generating, presenting and curating new types of research which can be driven by the visual and the social.

A 3D reconstruction and visualisation is a digital object or environment which simulates aspects of the real world in three dimensions. They are typically made accessible to the end user as simple 3D objects within a web browser, 3D virtual worlds within a 3D viewer or augmented reality using a mobile device.

The advantages of 3D reconstruction and visualisation to arts and humanities research include:

  • Exploring objects and locations spatially, which is perhaps not possible with the real objects and locations (eg. sensitive archaeological sites).
  • Social environments for the exchange of research ideas, possibly prompted by the presence of 3D objects and locations.
  • New types of interfaces for accessing existing digital content services such as virtual museums, journals and digital art.
  • An evolving simulation of some aspect of the real world, such as a virtual reconstruction of a historic monument which can change and adapt in response to new information gained from an archaeological dig.
  • Exploring how digital representations of 3D objects can interact with other types of digital data in order to improve one’s knowledge of the object, such as the ability to combine a 3D model of a jug with all the other information that is known about it (textual, visual, aural).
  • Understanding how physical spaces are used through simulation and the visualisation of processes, such as how soldiers moved around in a First World War trench system.

3D virtual worlds are usually populated by multiple users who take the form of ‘avatars’ – virtual individuals – although sometimes the world can be experienced by the single user only, in a manner similar to traditional computer games. Perhaps the most publicised 3D virtual world to date is Second Life.

Augmented reality techniques enable us to overlay digital data – whether 3D or 2D – onto the user’s view of the real world via a device such as a smart phone or tablet. For example, a user might be able to explore the streets of a city and have buildings overlaid with historic photographs or enter a historic home and see virtual scenes enacted via their device.