28 February 2011

Virtual Panoramas of Herculaneum

The Herculaneum Conservation Project has a great gallery of panoramas and walkthroughs of the ancient city. Ever wanted to walk around inside the city's sewers? Or maybe Insula Orientalis I? Here's an app for that.
A bit of the Herculaneum sewer system, walk on through
Insula Orientalis I
I like this project a lot and the site works beautifully. But I'm struck by how much this QTVR technology (which has been in use by archaeologists for over 10 years now) seems old-fashioned compared to Google street view. The Quicktime and flash images are nice, but they take a while to load and the distortion as you move around in an image makes my eyes hurt. Street view has a more intuitive, less static interface. (Compare, for instance, the Street View of Pompeii.) I have no idea how much that technology costs compared to QTVR, which can be implemented with just a camera, tripod, and laptop. But it does make me think about the dilemmas of choosing a technology for a project like this, knowing that it will probably be superseded in just a few years by something new.

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