Using Virtual Reality to Discover Cultural Heritage

Virtual Reality has been widely used for the prevention and promotion of Cultural Heritage in the form of standalone applications targeting people who are not able to visit museums in place. The first virtual museums were applications running on a desktop computer or online accessible through the web. However, with technology advances, the current trend is among these applications to exploit different types of emerging technologies (Michael et al), Augmented Reality systems (Miyashita et al), multi-touch surfaces (Zaharias et al) and haptic devices (Loscos et al). Recent developments in Virtual Reality (VR) hardware resulted in reduced cost in acquiring VR equipment that enables the widespread immersive visualization and interaction in virtual environments. The evaluation Virtual reality systems (Bowman et al) is a challenging topic. Works on this area address the evaluation from different perspectives: (i) learning effectiveness of these systems [Wishart 2010, Wrzesien 2010]; (ii) user performance evaluation usually using objective quantitative measurements such as completion time, error rate and user experience and (iii) user enjoyment, engagement and satisfaction.

The first stage of the process involves scanning real artefacts into 3D models for digital representations. The first objects to be scanned were ancient terracotta figurines. Terracotta figurines embody ancient tangible and intangible cultural evidence and meanings. The specific terracotta figurines were found during excavation at the ‘House of Orpheus’ in Nea Paphos, employing stylistic, analytical, computational and theoretical methods of study. Moving beyond the individual analytical datasets at a micro-regional level, the project aims at providing a reference collection for future research, setting the scene for further systematic study of Hellenistic and Roman terracotta figurines from Cyprus and the wider Mediterranean world. In addition, the project aims to raise public interest in this type of findings, through the development of novel computer applications in relation to these terracotta figurines. The whole collection at the Paphos District Museum contains hundreds of terracotta figurine fragments. Among all the available fragments, archaeologists from our team selected the ones that are either deemed most important, or are expected to resolve important archaeological (and art-historical) issues if digitized. So far the digitization process has been completed for about 50 selected fragments.

The digitization process is divided into two main tasks, namely the 3D scanning phase and the post-processing phase. The 3D scanning process was performed at the Paphos District Museum using the portable Z Corporation, ZScanner® 700CX. During the scanning process the 3D shape and texture of each item was recorded simultaneously. For each item, two scans showing its front and back were obtained.


Each scan was then processed using the MeshLab software ( so that artifacts that appear in each scan were removed and the processed scans showing two sides of the same object were stitched together so that complete 3D models of each item were produced.


The scans were then used to build a virtual museum (among other virtual museums) to display the 3D models. Users can use either a VR head mounted display or a PowerWall to navigate the virtual worlds.





Fernando Loizides, A. El Kater, C. Terlikas, Andreas Lanitis, D. Michael: Presenting Cypriot Cultural Heritage in Virtual Reality: A User Evaluation. EuroMed 2014: 572-579

G. Papantoniou, Fernando Loizides, Andreas Lanitis, D. Michaelides: Digitization, Restoration and Visualization of Terracotta Figurines from the ‘House of Orpheus’, Nea Paphos, Cyprus. EuroMed 2012: 543-550

Michael, D., Zaharias, P., Chrysanthou, Y. : A virtual tour of the Walls of Nicosia: An assessment of children’s experience and learning performance. VAST: International Symposium on Virtual Reality, Archaeology and Intelligent Cultural Heritage-Short and Project Papers, 9–15 (2010)

Miyashita, T., Meier, P., Tachikawa, T., Orlic, S., Eble, T., Scholz, V., … & Lieberknecht, S.: An augmented reality museum guide. Proc. of the 7th IEEE/ACM International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality, IEEE Computer Society, 103–106 (2008)

Zaharias, P., Michael, D., Chrysanthou, Y.: Learning through multi-touch interfaces in museum exhibits: An empirical investigation. J. of Educational Tech & Society, 16(3), 374 (2013)

Loscos, C., Tecchia, F., Frisoli, A., Carrozzino, M., Widenfeld, H.R., Swapp, D., Bergamasco, M.: The museum of pure form: touching real statues in an immersive virtual museum. In: VAST, 271–279 (2004)

Bowman, D. A., Gabbard, J. L., Hix, D.: A survey of usability evaluation in virtual environments: classification and comparison of methods. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, 11(4), 404–424 (2002)

Wishart, J., Triggs, P.: MuseumScouts: Exploring how schools, museums and interactive technologies can work together to support learning. Comp. & Edu., 54(3), 669-678 (2010)

Wrzesien, M., Alcañiz Raya, M.: Learning in serious virtual worlds: Evaluation of learning effectiveness and appeal to students in the E-Junior project. Computers & Education, 55(1), 178–187 (2010)

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