The ability to visualize and interact with concepts in new ways has always been intrinsic to the process of discovery. Remote sensing and near surface geophysical prospection methods offer the possibilities to discover, investigate and document buried archaeology without exposing it to the risk of destruction, contributing to the preservation of endangered cultural heritage for future generations. The physical act of touching and excavating the buried archaeology includes its destruction. Non-invasive prospection transfers these physical interactions in a virtual data visualisation space where computational power can combine with natural human interactions and visual communication.
VR systems are soft- and hardware systems for the interactive simulation and exploration of data-sets, which virtually represent aspects of the real world and their interpretation. Main requirements for adequate VR systems are the interactive visualization and tools for an intuitive interaction in 3D or 4D. VR devices giving access to a group of experts are used to enhance the discussion within the interpretation team and decision makers. Such functionality in hard- and software provides the perfect environment for integrated interpretation by various experts within the LBI ArchPro partner consortium.
The main focus within Virtual Archaeology is on the development and application of virtual reality tools and respective interfaces for visualization and interacting with the integrated 3D surface and volumetric prospection datasets in a virtual data visualization space to extract archaeologically relevant facts. A key to enabling such exciting virtual digs lies in making the tools fit seamlessly into the scientific workflow developed for the integrated archaeological analysis and interpretation of prospection data. Within a virtual space it becomes possible to interact with the data more effectively to derive relevant archaeological facts and contexts. Following the state-of-the-art, such interaction should be based on ´natural user interfaces´, well designed human-computer interfaces that enable fluid, often modeless interaction by interpreting direct physical or spatial input from the user.
The proposed VR developments should not be misunderstood as an approach towards the not uncontroversial reconstruction of archaeological sites by means of VR visualizations, but as basic research into the potential of VR technology for sound scientific analysis of complex 3D datasets derived from non-destructive prospection, including archaeological simulations and cyber-archaeology.