virtual human research

Posted by Rhizome | Fri Nov 1st 1996 1 a.m.

This is for the benefit of anyone interested in virtual humans research
who can get to the Virtual Heritage '96 conference in London in December
(12-13).

The high spot this year will be the unveiling of Nadia Thalmann's
celebrated project to bring virtual life to a group of the Chinese
terracotta warriors. This is a landmark project not only for virtual
humans research, but also for the use of VR techniques in the
reconstruction of history. The ability to populate historical and
archaeological sites with autonomous v-humans, complete with realistic
contemporary clothing, hairstyles, behaviour and social interactions,
and in due course to enter their world and move amongst them, obviously
has extraordinarily wide-ranging implications.

It is also worth making the point that virtual heritage is now starting
to attract interest and investment from some very large theme park and
visitor centre developers. I know of a half dozen such projects with
eight or nine figure budgets, currently at the planning and feasibility
stage, in which virtual heritage reconstructions will play a central
role. One of the largest - the Virtual Reality Valley scheme, based
around a reconstruction of Hadrian's Wall and its history, was described
at last year's conference.

The web site for the event is at www.heritage.co.uk/heritage/virtual/
Apart from Nadia's presentation, there is a lot of interest in
Infobyte's wonderful Colosseum reconstruction, by far the largest-scale
virtual heritage project yet attempted, and TASC Inc's reconstruction of
the Battle of Gettysburg, using their Portable War Room simulation
technology.

Actually, I think the whole program (for which Silicon Graphics are the
ever-supportive sponsors) is brilliant and wonderful - even more so than
last year. And yes, this is a commercial announcement - we organise and
produce the event. However, I can tell you that although Virtual
Heritage 95 was a sell-out, it generated a lot more revenue for a couple
of the professorial presenters than for the producer, and I shan't mind
at all if the same happens this time. I think it's about time the
cultural and educational applications of VR moved up the ratings a
little, and we shall be announcing some more initiatives with that in
mind before long.
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