Reading’s Digital Model of Rome

Interesting digital model of Rome from the folks at Reading:

University of Reading students, schoolchildren, and members of the public have been enjoying learning about Rome’s history through a new digital model of the ancient city.

The new 3D fly-through digital model, the only of its kind developed in the UK and due for completion later this year, will offer scholars unprecedented opportunities to reconstruct key events in the history of the imperial capital.

The model is the concept of Dr Matthew Nicholls from the University of Reading’s Department of Classics. Although originally designed as a teaching tool, the model’s commercial potential was highlighted when it received the runner’s-up prize in a regional competition for university business spin-off ideas.

When complete, the model will show the whole city of Rome (c.AD 315.) and cover an area of about 1370 hectares, with thousands of buildings, houses, shops, temples, baths, stadiums and streets on display. AD 315. saw Rome ruled by the emperor Constantine, the first Christian emperor. His reign was at the height of the imperial city’s splendour, when almost all of the great civic buildings had been constructed and before the decline of the empire.

Dr Nicholls said: “The model corresponds well to the standing ruins visible in Rome today. Buildings in the movie include the imperial fora built at the height of imperial self-confidence and prosperity in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, the late republican dockyards and warehouses of the Aventine region, and some of the empire’s most lavish buildings for public entertainment – the Circus Maximus, the Colosseum, and the great imperial bathhouses.”

Dr Nicholls’ students use the model during lectures and on their university trips to Rome while schools and museums across the country have benefitted through the University’s outreach programmes.

Feedback from students and teachers has been very positive. One teacher at a talk in Guildford told Dr Nicholls: “Your computer animations are very impressive. They helped the students and staff to visualise the site of Rome and its buildings, but most importantly the scale, which pictures on their own fail to do.

Dr Nicholls said: “This model brings the city to life in three dimensions and always receives a good reaction in lectures and talks. It can be rotated and scaled to show any area of the city or building so it’s a very vivid way of portraying the ancient city as it once was. The feedback from students and school teachers encouraged me to think there is a commercial market for the finished project.”

Educational tools and the tourist market in Rome who purchase reconstruction guidebooks to enhance their visit could all benefit from the model, through smartphone and internet applications.

Dr Nicholls continued: “I attended an entrepreneurship and business course organised through the University called CommercialISE which helped me map out a route to market for this exciting project. I found this extremely useful and was delighted to be recognised by receiving the runners-up prize.”

Dr Nicholls has been generously supported by the University’s Annual Fund and the Teaching and Learning Development Fund who see the potential benefit to current and future students. He is aiming to complete the model this year and is looking for publishers to help realise its potential.

The original press release includes some videos of the digital model … over the years I’ve grown increasingly diffident about these sorts of things; Rome looks a little too clean …

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