We spoke to the makers of Rome's Invisible City
Can you sum up the experience for us?
This prototype allows you to explore Rome's magnificent Pantheon and the underground quarry the Romans mined to build it in stunning 3D virtual reality. The clever bit is that you won't need any fancy kit to use it as it works through a web browser on your phone or tablet, but if you have a Cardboard viewer then even better!
How did the idea come about?
Rome's Invisible City was a BBC documentary shown on BBC One in June 2015. With the help of the team at ScanLAB Projects and the latest in 3D scanning technology, Alexander Armstrong, along with Dr Michael Scott, explored the hidden underground treasures of Rome, and created stunning 3D models of these amazing spaces. We wanted to know if we could do even more with these graphics, and so we set about repurposing them to create a virtual reality experience.
The BBC History team collaborated with BBC Connected Studio and ScanLAB to develop and produce this interactive prototype. As well as the incredible graphics, it was really exciting when we managed to get Alexander Armstrong in to do the narration for the experience, not just because he presented the TV show, but also because he has such a keen interest in the subject matter.
How was it made?
The models were created using cutting-edge laser scanning technology to create detailed full-colour pointclouds of real spaces in and under Rome during the filming of Rome's Invisible City. These virtual models were rendered in stereoscopic 3D for Google Cardboard. The project uses WebVR technology to display the virtual reality experience in a browser, so the user has no need to download any other software or apps. The sound has been recreated and mixed in adaptive 3D through stereo headphones.
What are you trying to test?
We want to find out how people get on with the VR experience - not just how it looks but if it makes them feel excited, increases their curiousity of Rome or just makes them feel a bit nauseous! We would also love to know if this project attracts a new audience to BBC history programmes and if using VR makes a documentary more immersive.