June 12, 2007


Rome Reborn in Virtual Reality

By Pamela Mortimer


“Rome Reborn 1.0”, a virtual reality rendering of the Italian city in its heyday, was revealed on Monday in a ceremony at Rome’s City Hall hosted by Mayor Walter Veltroni.



They say that Rome wasn’t built in a day. The same can be said of “Rome Reborn 1.0.” a colossal virtual reality tour of one of the world’s most celebrated, and ancient, cities.


This 3-D, real-time model depicts a good portion the ancient city when it was under the reign of Emperor Constantine the Great. In A.D. 320, Rome, which boasted nearly a million inhabitants, was at its peak.


“Rome Reborn 1.0”, a ten-year, $2 million VR project is the brainchild of Bernard Frischer, a classics scholar and the director of the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH), and Diane Favro, an Architecture and Urban-Design professor at UCLA. Also involved in the revolutionary project are an academic team comprised of architects, computer scientists and archaeologists from UCLA, the University of Virginia, and Milan Polytechnic.


Rome Reborn 1.0, was named showing reverence to “Roma Instaurata” (“Rome Restored”), a book authored by Flavio Biondo. Biondo, who was a papal secretary in the 1440s and the first to show interest in recreating the grandeur of ancient Rome, is often considered to be the father of Roman Archeology.


The VR tour hopes to be able to make sense of the city’s ancient ruins. A frequent visitor to the city, Frischer often calls the ruins a “confusing mess”. With Rome Reborn, viewers can get a taste of what the city was really like. Aimed at both scholars and tourists, the program takes viewers on a trip through the buildings and plazas of the Forum, including the infamous Senate, the Basilica of Maxentius, the Temple of Vesta, and under the Arch of Septimius Severus. At the infamous Colosseum, which was dedicated by Titus in A.D. 80, visitors can visualize the stone seats, traverse the arena floor where gladiators once fought for their lives, and even venture underground.


“We can take people under the Colosseum and show them how the elevators worked to bring the animals up from underground chambers for the animal hunts they held,” Frischer said.


In a written statement Frischer suggested that the program might be extended to other ancient capitals, too. "This is just the first step in the creation of a virtual time machine, which our children and grandchildren will use to study the history of Rome and many other great cities around the world," he said.


Sections of the simulation are available on the Internet via the project’s website: <a href=http://www.romereborn.virginia.edu</a>