Meet Dr. Matthew Nicholls, of the Department of Classics at the University of Reading
3D reconstructions can be a powerful way to bring the ancient world to life especially when 21st century tools like SketchUp, Kubity, and Augment are available to bring you on an in-person historical tour. Ancient historians and Classicists at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom are doing just that — using Augment’s augmented reality app to help students, visitors, and the general public ‘hold’ and ‘touch’ ancient remains and buildings.
Dr. Matthew Nicholls, of the Department of Classics at Reading, has made a detailed digital model of ancient Rome in SketchUp so that he can illustrate the area in courses and on field trips. He has found that students respond exceptionally well when they can navigate and explore these models for themselves. By simply dragging and dropping a SketchUp file into Augment, and then attaching the model to a real world ‘tracker’, he is able to provide students an opportunity to explore Ancient Rome for themselves. Dr. Nicholls likes to use archeological plans of the site in question as trackers, which students can then hold and rotate in real space, allowing for a far more dynamic engagement with the site than seeing a picture in a lecture slide. Building can be viewed from different angles and distances using students’ own mobile devices and there is a palpable ‘wow factor’ in seeing digital content viewable in real-world contexts.
The University of Reading’s Classics Department also houses the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology, the United Kingdom’s fourth largest collection of ancient Greek ceramics. The Museum is used extensively for teaching and hosts numerous school visits, but much of the collection is too fragile to take out of their cases. A team of students have used a 3D scanner and photogrammetry apps to make scans of several of the exhibits and uploading the results to SketchFab (see “Additional Resources” to the right). Through the Augment app, Museum’s visitors now have a way to ‘hold’ precious pots, rotating and moving them freely while the real object stays safely behind glass. Since the decoration on most Greek pots runs right round the vessel, this usefully supplements the Museum display, where the pots are viewable from only one direction.
The team at the University of Reading continues to discover new uses for this exciting technology.