2.6 Future developments in VRML and archaeological applications

Over the last three years, an increasing number of archaeological VRML models have appeared on the Internet. Early models are characterised by basic spatial modelling and no refinement of the user interface, as well as some navigational problems. However, the quality of new VRML models has improved rapidly over the past year for various reasons, including the increase in computer power, the acceptance of VRML as a standard, growing knowledge of the Internet and associated protocols, and the development of better and easier to use software. These models on the whole are static, i.e. cannot be fundamentally changed without reprogramming the model, but recent research into VRML and archaeological applications has focused on the use of databases with VRML to provide a cultural and historical context to virtual worlds, and also to support the creation of three-dimensional models from existing archaeological databases. This could eventually result in 'bi-directional databases into which excavated data could be fed, existing and emerging digital libraries could be linked, and from which new hypotheses could be tested and new computer environments constructed' (see Learning Sites).

Such dynamic database-driven VRML could provide great opportunities for the creation of interactive educational packages:

Digital documentation methods will allow archaeological fieldwork to be entered directly into bi-directional databases as excavation progresses. Field archaeologists will be able to access virtual worlds based on this information during excavation, as well as feeding new data into the system, automatically updating the on-line teaching aids. Thus, eventually, architects, artists, archaeologists, engineers, computing technicians, software designers and telecommunications experts will collaborate in constr ucting multidimensional libraries that will become the foundations of virtual environments. The use of VRML and the Internet as the ultimate vehicles of this data and its interactivity now makes possible a globally integrated, symbiotic system for the enhancement of public education, public awareness, and interdisciplinary research (Sanders and Gray 1996).

Although such research and project work are currently in their infancy, continued exploration of virtual reality as an educational tool could well result in VRML becoming part of the complex structures in place to ensure wide accessibility to both collections and history.

The ability of the computer to transmute one form of information into another - data into pictures, pictures into scenarios - affords an amazing new mechanism for remembering the past. In a world consistently besieged by new technology, it is important to recall that the survival of culture ultimately depends on memory (Davis 1997).


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Last updated: Mon Nov 29 1999