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Virtual historical landscapes

Arnoud de Boer, Leen Breure, Sandor Spruit, Hans Voorbij


Using 3D computer graphics technology, we are able to create virtual reconstructions of (almost completely) disappeared landscapes. The applications of these virtual historic landscapes range from landscape archaeology, edutainment to landscape planning. Although computer graphics technology matured and photo-realistic representations are achieved, the creation of realistic virtual reconstructions remains problematic. For a realistic user experience, we need to know which cues influence the user perception. However, poor-defined visualization requirements for 3D virtual historic landscapes leave us with the question ‘How good is good enough?’

This article discusses the search for a decisive variable to let users perceive the virtual historic landscape, focusing on image quality and contents of the virtual historic landscape. The virtual reconstruction of Palace Honselaarsdijck, a 17th century real-estate of stadtholder Frederick Henry (1584-1647), and its surrounding landscape is used as a case study. Using old maps, image processing and GIS software the historic terrain model was generated. By application of a 3D historic object library, the virtual landscape was decorated with wind mills, houses, churches and so forth. Finally, the virtual historic landscape was completed with atmospheres, water and vegetation. The result is a full-decorated and rendered virtual historic landscape. From a preliminary user test, the researchers learned that the contents of the virtual historic landscape are more important than the image quality. Future work will focus on what the identifying landscape features for a realistic user experience are, and how to communicate uncertainty inside the virtual landscape. The expectation is  that the work contributes to the realization of virtual historic landscape on a large-scale to communicate landscape information to the broad public.


3D virtual reconstruction; virtual historic landscapes; old maps and drawings; user experience; Honselaarsdijck; virtual 3D landscape; cultural landscapes; history; GIS; digital landscape model; level of realism; heritage landscapes; landscape management

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