Bringing History to Life with Artec Scanners and AR

The Centre for Digital Documentation and Visualisation is a partnership between Historic Environment Scotland and The Glasgow School of Art, set up to deliver innovative digital heritage projects. The team members first started using an Artec MHT scanner way back in 2011 (supplied by Artec Gold Reseller Central Scanning) while working on the Scottish Ten Project. This involved digitally documenting Scotland’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites and international heritage sites, including Mount Rushmore and the Sydney Opera House, to generate 3D data to help in their conservation, management and interpretation.

The site is adorned with over 400 intricately carved sandstone figures of Hindu deities.

All images curtesy: Centre for Digital Documentation and Visualisation

One of the international sites was the wonderful 1,000-year-old stepwell of Rani ki Vav in Gujarat, India. This was the first project where the Artec scanner really proved invaluable. The site is adorned with over 400 intricately carved sandstone figures of Hindu deities. While the team worked with terrestrial laser scanners to capture the stepwell and its context, they worked for a solid two weeks with the MHT to record the detail of as many sculptures as they could at high resolution. The MHT was the perfect scanner for the job and produced some fantastic data. It thereafter became a permanent tool in their 3D toolkit. The team was really thrilled when their work at Rani ki Vav contributed in part to the site being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014.

While the team worked with terrestrial laser scanners to capture the stepwell and its context, they worked for a solid two weeks with the MHT to record the detail of as many sculptures as they could at high resolution.

Currently, the Centre for Digital Documentation and Visualisation is working with partners in Germany and Austria on a Creative Europe funded project called Advanced Limes Applications (ALApp). The project develops and disseminates digital technologies and content for advanced mobile applications to interpret the transnational World Heritage Site Frontiers of the Roman Empire, with a focus on the Antonine Wall in Scotland and the Raetian Limes in Bavaria. Both form parts of the UNESCO Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site. In Scotland, the project works with six locations along the Antonine Wall: Bearsden, Croy Hill, Duntocher, Kinneil, Rough Castle and Watling Lodge. The work in Bavaria, however, focusses on one site, the archaeological landscape at Eining, near Regensburg, including the former Abusina castell.

The MHT was the perfect scanner for the job and produced some fantastic data.

The team is systematically recording Antonine Wall and German Limes objects for the ALApp project to create an interactive location-based augmented reality app for the northernmost Frontier of the Roman Empire. Content will be added to this over the next few years thanks to the Creative Europe funding, but the app can be downloaded now for free with information for the first sites: Google Play / iTunes

For the project, they recently digitally recorded some amazing statues of Mars and Venus in a museum in Munich.

The app features interactive 3D models and reconstructions of artefacts found at the Roman sites. Users can pan, zoom and rotate them, as well as find out more about the objects from the text description. To capture the museum artefacts in 3D, the centre is using a combination of Artec structured light scanners and digital photogrammetry. They have upgraded to an Artec Eva system, which is a big advance in terms of data quality, portability and ease of use. They also have a battery pack for the system which helps them out when working in places with no power source. For the project, they recently digitally recorded some amazing statues of Mars and Venus in a museum in Munich. By incorporating these 3D models into the app, they were able to digitally repatriate the artefacts to the places they were found. Their partners in Austria, EduFilm, are developing an augmented reality component which will allow you to interact with the 3D models in real-time while you visit the archaeological site. Using location-based AR triggers, the 3D models will load at particular places to enhance the understanding of the site. This feature will be rolled out next year.

Historic Environment Scotland is now beginning to share these 3D models generated using the Artec scanners on Sketchfab. You can see some of the Antonine Wall here.

3D model of a distance slab from the Antonine Wall.

Dr Lyn Wilson, Digital Documentation Manager at Centre for Digital Documentation and Visualisation, notes that “Artec 3D scanners and software let us quickly and accurately generate 3D models for the cultural heritage sites and artefacts we work on, helping us to share and disseminate. Artec 3D data really does allow us to bring our history to life!”

The Centre for Digital Documentation and Visualisation hope to continue working with Central Scanning and Artec3D scanners for the foreseeable future and look forward to evaluating the Artec Leo to further enhance their capabilities.

Case study written by Dr Lyn Wilson, Digital Documentation Manager, Centre for Digital Documentation and Visualisation LLP.

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