Early 2014, the Department of Archaeology and Ancient History of Uppsala University held a summit gathering people with a varying IT background in an attempt to find better ways of utilizing technology for archeological and historical purposes. As a result, a collaborative group was created with people having skills ranging from archeology to 3D modelling and game programming. This group set out to create a new kind of user experience with the aim of attracting new audiences to archeology, and more specifically to "Gamla Uppsala".
This new experience is an app for tablets and smartphones, which utilizes GPS, gyroscope and the capabilities of a 3D engine to equip the user of a window into the past. Walking around in Gamla Uppsala while holding out the phone or tablet places the user at that exact location, but 1400 years ago. The end result is an experience that lies somewhere between AR and VR, utilizing strengths from both concepts. The experience was coined “Augmented History” by the team.
Using archeology findings and research as basis, a team of highly skilled 3D artist has recreated the environment of the Vendel period in a beautiful 3D experience. It became clear that the environment was far too complex and dense to be viewable on a mobile device in real-time, especially at the framerates required for an immersive user experience. This is where Simplygon came into the picture. Before using Simplygon the environment couldn’t even load on most of the mobile devices without crashing from memory overload, and the performance on the high memory devices was far from acceptable.
“By using Simplygon our team could optimize the environment to be able to run at 60 fps on an iPhone 5S; a process that took less than 5 hours in total for the entire scene”, says Daniel Westergren, lead artist on the team.
Daniel explains that the team used the Simplygon Unity plugin; a handy way of working with Simplygon directly inside the Unity editor.
“Creating an optimized LOD-chain for a single model is essentially achieved with a single press of a button, but the most important for us was the ability to group a bunch of adjacent objects into a prefab, and then reducing the whole prefab into a single draw call, with a seamless LOD-chain”, says Sebastian Wiberg, lead developer on the project.
Being able to work directly in the engine was important for the team, since the complete scene was assembled and historically verified inside Unity. This project is a great showcase of how Simplygon, not only will reach great results, but will often do so in a very short amount of time.
Contact regarding the Augmented History application (available by the end of August):
Staffan Hagberg, firstname.lastname@example.org
You can find more information about the Gamla Uppsala project and historical content here.
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