Rome Reborn Model Pushes Frontiers of 3-D Simulation

From Wired:

Colosseum, picture taken by Andreas RibbefjordRome was at its peak in the fourth century, with over a million inhabitants. It was the largest metropolis the world had ever seen: Not until Victorian London, 1500 years later, did an urban area surpass Rome’s size. This week, an unusual combination of classicists, engineers and archaeologists unveiled something not even HBO and Hollywood could manage – a complete 3-D model of Rome, circa 320 A.D.

It’s a huge model for a huge city. Running a fly-through, real-time model of the ancient city requires serious processing power. “It’s a big engineering problem to have a big model of something that has to be rendered that fast,” says Bernard Frischer, director of the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia and the “Rome Reborn” project’s organizer.

To create the digital model, researchers scanned a 3,000 square foot, 1/250 plaster model of the city – the “Plastico di Roma Antica” – which was completed in the 1970s. Because of the model’s intricacy – the Plastico’s Coliseum is only 8 inches tall — Italian engineers used laser radar originally designed to measure precise tolerances on jet parts to scan within a tenth of a millimeter. Each 6-by-6 section contained 60 million data points.


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