It was a hot and stifling day as we climbed to the top of the acropolis at Aspendos on the southwestern coast of Turkey earlier this year. It was mid afternoon and the the site was pretty much deserted. I was quite exhausted, as I’d been up late the night before adding the final touches to the VR scene I’d carefully prepared from site plans and elevations. With me were three companions and supporters, who were keen to try it out. There was a solemnity around the occasion as I unpacked the Samsung Gear VR, it felt like we were marking an important moment in immersive VR and archaeology.
I have to admit, I was a bit nervous. Was the battery charged? Would the Samsung Gear survive the heat? Thankfully, I need not have been concerned. I found the spot in the 2nd century AD Roman basilica that matched the scene, lined up the Samsung Gear so the view matched perfectly, and suddenly I was both inside the digital reconstruction and also the physical space. I have to admit that despite the stifling heat, I got goose bumps. It was like some kind of veil had dropped, and I somehow occupied two realms simultaneously: the reconstructed past space with its marble, monolithic columns and mighty ceiling, and current physical reality—a roofless, dusty and ruined shell.
My companions eagerly tried on the Gear and were equally amazed by the result. Suddenly, in a few seconds, the ancient space made sense. When they wore the goggles and pointed to a feature, they were indicating exactly to spot in the real world. Somehow were shared the space. No lengthy explanation was needed to justify or explain the reconstruction, it was just there to see. The lasting effect? After taking off the goggles, the physical ruined space had become comprehensible, the reconstruction had been mapped and projected both onto the mind of the viewer and the space they occupied. This was an exciting moment of demonstrating this new way to instantly share research, it really was.
Simon J. Young