Low-Cost Methods for Generating Panoramic Views for a Mobile Virtual Heritage Application and its Application to the Heritage Zone of George Town Malaysia

Low-Cost Methods for Generating Panoramic Views for a Mobile Virtual Heritage Application and its Application to the Heritage Zone of George Town Malaysia

Chen Kim Lim (Universiti Sains Malaysia, Malaysia), Kian Lam Tan (Universiti Sains Malaysia, Malaysia) and Abdullah Zawawi bin Haji Talib (Universiti Sains Malaysia, Malaysia)
Copyright: © 2011 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/jeei.2011100105
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Abstract

With rapid advancement of technology, people can roam around the virtual world through the aid of the Internet. One of these advances is a photographic technique called panoramic view where the images are captured with elongated field of view using specialized software or equipments. One popular software for generating panoramic views is Apple Inc.’s QuickTime VR (QTVR). However, iphone Operating System (iOS) does not support the existing QTVR software. Therefore, a low-cost method for generating panoramic views on mobile platform is proposed. The proposed method is to store finite images in an array in order to generate a 360o panoramic view from different angles of the heritage sites. This method can be supported various platforms and can be installed in any mobile device without using intermediate software to convert the image file format. The key aspects of the iOS User Experience (UX) are also explored from the perspectives of Model-View-Control (MVC) strategies. The outcome is 360o cylindrical panoramic views that allow the user to gain a clear vision around historical monuments with standardize iOS interface design on a mobile platform using lower computational cost but with similar quality of production. The results of the evaluation have shown that the application is successfully implemented in George Town, Malaysia.
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Introduction

In the present society, people live in two distinct worlds which are the real world and the virtual world. The advancement of virtual reality (VR) becomes crucial in multidisciplinary areas such as simulation for education, entertainment, medical application and gaming (Noh et al., 2009). Heritage is defined as our legacy inherited from the past, our traditions that we practice today, or our immaterial possessions that we are passing on to the next generations (Russell, 2009). Each of the heritage buildings has its own historical stories. Some of the historical stories were told by our forefathers and others can be obtained from history books. On the other hand, virtual heritage is one of the computer technologies that create explicit visual representation of a structure erected to commemorate monuments, artifacts and cultural buildings (Stone & Ojika, 2002). With virtual heritage, people can have an overall imagination of the heritage sites although they might have not visited some of the places before. Virtual heritage has also become a platform for improving the learning process of certain events and historical elements for use in an educational field (Jianai & McDonough, 2009). Panoramic view is a widely technique to present virtual heritage since it gives a sense of immersion in the scene.

There are several representations of panoramas such as spherical, cubical and cylindrical panoramas as shown in Figure 1. Spherical and cubical panoramas can be viewed from any directions from a current fixed position. Both of these panoramas offer the users a 720o view that is a full view in both horizontal and vertical directions. However, spherical and cubic panoramas are difficult to capture compared to cylindrical panoramas since spherical and cubical panoramas also contain top view image and the bottom view image. For cylindrical panorama, the observer’s view in the vertical direction is limited but they offer a full 360o horizontal view. Yet, cylindrical panoramas fulfill the requirement in most virtual reality applications. Furthermore, the image format for cylindrical panorama can be saved as a normal photo format such as ‘jpeg’ and ‘png’. Therefore, cylindrical panoramas can fit most applications and reduce problems of format incompatibility with software devices. Besides, cylindrical panorama can also be unrolled into a planar image as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 1.

Representations for panoramas (a) spherical (b) cubical (c) cylindrical (Ying et al., 2009)

Figure 2.

An example of a cylindrical panoramic image (Ying et al., 2009)

Virtual heritage applications combine real and virtual objects. So, cylindrical panorama is one of the most suitable techniques to be adopted in developing virtual heritage applications because it is possible for the users to navigate a 360o horizontal walkthrough. Therefore, users can now experience the heritage sites rather than merely looking at the photographs or reading the historical articles. The objective of this paper is to present a low-cost method of capturing and producing cylindrical panoramas for a mobile virtual heritage application. The virtual heritage area chosen in this study is the UNESCO heritage area of George Town, Penang in Malaysia. The city is filled with many historical monuments such as Kapitan Keling Mosque, Acheen Street Mosque, Fort Cornwallis, Goddess of Mercy Temple, Khoo Kongsi and many more. Figure 3 shows some examples of the heritage sites found in the core heritage zone of George Town.

Figure 3.

Some examples of the heritage sites found in the core heritage zone of George Town. (a) 1926 Heritage Hotel (b) Acheen Street Mosque (c) Penang Road (d) Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion (e) E&O Hotel (f) Penang Harbour Lighthouse at Fort Cornwallis (g) Penang General Hospital (h) Kapitan Keling Mosque.

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