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3. A way forward for virtual reality and visualisation in archaeology

Visualisations, via animated fly-through sequences of three-dimensional models and to some extent virtual reality, have become a standard technique for interpreting and presenting the past to the wider public. We have already acknowledged that this has been driven by the combined requirements of the virtual reality industry for attractive models to promote its products and by the media to flesh out the perceived bare bones of archaeological fact, the needs and requirements of the archaeologist often taking second place to these requirements. We hope that virtual reality and related visualisation technologies may become an integral research tool within many archaeological projects, forming part of the arsenal of those techniques routinely employed by archaeologists. The advantages it offers the archaeologist (Gillings and Goodrick 1996; Gillings 2000), given lively debate, will encourage this. Unfortunately this increased application is currently hindered by the preconceptions as to the difficulty and expense associated with the development of genuinely useful VR models. Unless a conscious effort is made to remove the preconceptions, this adoption could be a long time coming. It is therefore necessary for the archaeological community to rationalise the use and development of virtual archaeology.

This includes a number of distinct areas:

  1. the adoption of standard virtual reality and visualisation systems
  2. the development and publication of field techniques and methodologies
  3. the adoption and publication of best practice for the development of virtual reality and visualisation models
  4. overcoming inherent problems in current virtual reality systems
  5. development of archaeology-specific applications
  6. promotion of discussion within a wider audience regarding the theoretical and practical implications of virtual reality and visualisation approaches

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