Metaverse, even archeology discovers it

Metaverse, even archeology discovers it


It seems that in a short time the metaverse has gone from an inevitable technological innovation destined to spread to a confusing program destined for a few. As often happens, the truth lies in the middle and the metaverse is today a novelty to be explored and still in a growing phase that can lead to interesting results in different fields. One of them is archeology: yes, one of the latest tech inventions applies itself invaluably to the study of antiquity. Pioneer of this harmony between history and innovation is the La Sapienza University of Rome with the ArcheoVerso project.

ArcheoVerso in Ancient Rome

ArcheoVerso is a project that intends to explore the potential of the universes digital for the enhancement of the material and immaterial cultural heritage, developing a methodological and technological ecosystem aimed at identifying and expressing the best practices for the creation, use and interaction in immersive and augmented reality. The first test bench, the Roman houses of the Celio, a complex of residential buildings from the Roman age. “ The Roman domus of the Celio constitute the experimental case of a wider-ranging project aimed at developing a series of operational synergies on a new technological approach to the use of Cultural Heritage, read in their territorial key, probing new possibilities of interaction hitherto unthinkable with traditional digital systems” says Saverio Giulio Malatesta, ArcheoVerso project manager. The project was born from the collaboration between the Società Cooperativa Culture, which manages several important places in the Italian cultural scene, and the DigiLab interdepartmental research center, which includes 14 departments of three different faculties of the Sapienza University of Rome.

Wine cellar, Roman houses of Celio - Flickr

By MumblerJamie -, CC BY-SA 2.0 In addition to the virtual visits by the public, other improvements can come from the using the metaverse for scientific studies. The metaverse, in fact, imposes a series of obligatory processes, which accelerate the advancement or transformation of some dynamics present above all in the humanistic field. The comparison with an extremely varied, variable and evolving context, in terms of audience and possible use of the contents, as well as the different methods of use, forces a continuous updating of the technological solutions and methodologies that guarantee correct interaction with the cognitive and emotional impact of the user.

“ We must not forget that the metaverse is centered on the user and on the actions they perform in the digital environment: the mediation between the interaction of the individual and the digital environment must be as minor as possible, to guarantee a greater possible immersion – explains Malatesta -. From the point of view of user experience, therefore, there is a clear advance in research in all areas related to perception and reactivity, such as neuropsychology for example ". In addition to the technical and technological infrastructure, however, the content aspect must also be considered: the creation of complex systems, including in this definition both the content itself and the different ways of using it made possible by the metaversal environment, implies a rethinking the formulation and presentation of what we want to make available in the metaverse. The quality of immediacy that characterizes the digital environment functioning in real time imposes a series of choices as never before necessary. Malatesta explains “ This translates, in the field of cultural heritage and in the various fields of study connected to them, into a new way of thinking about the formulation of the cultural message, a new form of structuring information, a quick updating of data and, above all, the obligation of an almost immediate sharing of the results, with the consequent comparison, given the scale and nature of the metaverse, with a vast and diversified scientific community".

The spectacular images of the Vettii house in Pompeii Gallery 14 Images by Chiara Zennaro

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Metaverse as an original experience

There is therefore a precise development regarding archeology; but how are virtual versions useful for historical analysis? “ The metaverse involves an innovation in the process of understanding an archaeological context, based not only on the analysis of the different dynamics that have intervened on it, but forcing a necessary, although not obvious, work of synthesis of them, combining the sensory factor. The metaverse differs from a normal virtual reconstruction because it doesn't just present a hypothesis, but implies – by the very nature of its formulation – a continuous interaction with it,” says the expert. If, for example, the work of three-dimensional reconstruction of a monument obliges a continuous proposition of questions regarding the archaeological context, which is in itself naturally fragmentary and partial, in order to return an overall vision not of how the monument really was, but of how it could present itself in a given historical period, the possibility of moving around, of entering environments, of interacting with spaces, forces us to work that not only has a visual aspect, but also a sensorial one. The metaverse and virtual spaces have the ability to bring visitors and archaeologists into historical spaces, a possibility granted only by technological innovation.

Think of the area of ​​the Roman Forum: today's visitor is faced with a situation as never, in any historical moment, any Roman of any era could have ever seen, not so much for the situation of ruins, but for the number of buildings and monuments that can be seen at the same time today. Medieval arcades, triumphal arches from the 3rd century, burial grounds from the 9th century BC, basilicas in various historical phases, 20th-century monumental interpretations and arrangements, make up a mix that dazes the visitor and makes it difficult to understand not only the occasional visitor, but also the specialist called to extricate himself in the different construction phases and in the simultaneity of several interventions in several points of the Forum itself. In this, even before the metaverse, the simple digital restitution of the monuments has made it possible to isolate monuments and buildings that are coeval with each other, and to visualize the chronological development of the entire area; the second phase, that of the three-dimensional reconstruction, made it possible to understand the appearance and function of the various structures, however finding a limit in making us perceive their volumes, the relationship between the buildings and their context, the relationship between spaces and people.

And this is where the metaverse comes in. “ The difference between these two levels is within the reach of each of us, it is the same between seeing a photograph of a place or monument – ​​the Colosseum, for example – and being in its presence: in the photo the dimension completely escapes of the structure, of the functions of its scores and components, and how this is placed in the urban context of reference, while in presence, at the right dimensional ratio, the way of relating to it completely changes. It is no longer the Roman Forum as it appeared in a certain historical period: it is how the Roman Forum was conceived by its creators and how it was experienced by its visitors ”, concludes Malatesta. The metaverse thus finds a use linked to archeology and almost unexpected: the simultaneity of action at a potentially global level and multi-user interaction, entail the need for rapid updating of information and sharing of research results such as to constitute a driving force for the collaborative and open culture.

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