From Digital Survey to a Virtual Tale: Virtual Reconstruction of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan

From Digital Survey to a Virtual Tale: Virtual Reconstruction of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan

Cecilia Maria Bolognesi (Politecnico of Milano, Italy) and Damiano Antonino Angelo Aiello (Università di Catania, Italy)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 27
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1234-0.ch003


Nowadays, the innovative learning methods, such serious games, have become the new frontier of education and communication; in architecture, the virtual reconstructions of historical sites in their current state, in their original appearance and in their evolution over the centuries have contributed to the development of digital technologies (such as digital survey, Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality). This chapter describes the potentialities of new digitization technologies as tools to communicate and disseminate Cultural Heritage (CH) starting from its digital survey and a scientific research of historical sources. This research finds a new way to effectively tell the history of a monument and to transmit its value as a witness of ages that no longer belong to us, bringing it virtually to life. Specifically, the research group focused on the test of a digital workflow of surveying and modelling of some rooms of the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, that contain wonderful witnesses of Italian Renaissance characterized by a troubled history.
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In the last years, there was a turning point in the evolution of the representation techniques, when computer graphics first, and gaming then, met photogrammetry and laser scanner techniques (Verhoeven, 2017). From this point of view, new digital technologies, above all Virtual Reality, have started to develop, showing their extraordinary power to collect, analyse, enhance and disseminate the knowledge of Cultural Heritage. Consequently, the introduction of these new digital advanced techniques led to new challenges in the field of Digital Cultural Heritage (DCH). One of the main ones is to find a new balance between the great amount of data collected during the surveying and research phases, and the new ways of disseminating (Banfi, Brumana, & Stanga, 2019).

The opportunities offered by VR are becoming limitless and open wide scenarios in many fields of application: from the conservation and management of complex architectures (Amore, 2017; Aveta, Marino, & Amore, 2017) to the dissemination of historical information (Agnello, F., Avella, & Agnello S., 2019); from the development of Virtual Museums (VMs) (Perry, Roussou, Economou, Young, & Pujol, 2017) to the reconstructions of inaccessible or no more existing places (Bruno et al., 2019).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Oculus Rift: It is a VR device developed by Oculus VR with the following specifications: i) OLED display technology; ii) 2160 × 1200 resolution (1800 × 1200 per eye); iii) 90 Hz refresh rate; iv) 110 degrees or greater field of view (nominal); v) integrated audio VR; vi) rotational and positional tracking accomplished with the help of infrared LEDs which are detected by a separate IR camera.

Texture Mapping: It is a technique that allows one or more textures to be projected onto the surface of a 3D model, using UV coordinates.

Unwrapping: It indicates the first step of the UV mapping process. It consists in the flattening of the mesh in a 2D plane.

Retopology: It means to re-define the topology of a mesh. In other words, it is the act of recreating an existing surface with an optimized geometry.

UV Mapping: It is a texture mapping process that makes it possible to project a 2D image (texture) to the surface of a 3D model. The letters “U” and “V” indicate the axes of the 2D image.

Unreal Engine: It is a game engine, developed by Epic Games, used in a variety of genres, such as the Virtual Reality simulations. It is characterized by a very intuitive use mode, based on the Blueprint Visual Scripting system, a scripting system with a node-based interface that replaces the complex C ++ programming language.

Topology: Geometric properties of a mesh, such as the number and the shape of polygons that make it up.

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