A virtual tour of ancient Rome

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In Rome, a new virtual tour of ancient Rome is the latest exhibition at the Baths of Diocletian, a majestic collection of saunas and gymnasiums that are roughly 1,700 years old.

First, the backstory: Over the past couple of years, experts have used laser scans, satellite imagery, and ancient texts to create computer images of frescoed halls, gardens, and roads as they might have looked in the first century A.D., according to this Associated Press article. Visitors wear 3-D glasses and have the sensation of watching what it would have been like to walk down the ancient Via Flaminia.

Stops include Livia's palace, the Milvian Bridge on the Tiber River, and a triumphal arch built by the Emperor Constantine. A handful of lucky visitors at any given time are given joysticks to control avatars, or cartoon representations of travelers, that appear on-screen, walking along the street.

Get a small taste of the offering at the Virtual Heritage Lab website.

This will the first of many such virtual tours of three dimensional simulations of ancient Rome.

For example, RomeReborn1.0 is a project that will soon be made available to the public by university researchers. This digital model of the city will reproduce for tourists "on satellite-guided handsets and 3-D orientation movies in a theater to be opened near the Colosseum [images of] what the Colosseum, the Forum, the imperial palaces on the Palatine once looked like," according to this Reuters story.

Virtual tours will become available over the Internet, too. For example, "a section of Livia's villa will also be uploaded in the coming weeks on the Internet-based virtual reality community called Second Life," according to the AP.

[CORRECTION: This blog post originally dated the Baths of Diocletian 2,000 years old, rather than 1,700 years old. I regret the error. Thanks, Katy!]

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