BMT Group, Fraunhofer Team on Smartphone-Based Augmented Reality "Guide Book"

iTACITUS Reality Filtering

--App Would Allow Visitors to Europe to See How Historic Ruins Looked in their Heyday

UK-based engineering consultancy, BMT Group, said Monday that it has teamed with Germany's Fraunhofer research institute to develop a smartphone-based augmented reality application that it calls an "ultimate guide book." Dubbed iTacitus (an acronym for "intelligent tourism and cultural information through ubiquitous services") and developed under the auspices of a two-year project that is funded by the EU's Sixth Framework program and that also involves a number of other companies and organizations (more information is available on the project's Web site, itacitus.org), the app is billed as allowing users to "point their phone at an attraction and click on an application downloaded from the Internet, which will superimpose images on the screen of paintings, lost frescoes and statues which stood there in bygone years." Theoretically, a user could, for example, activate the application to view the Roman Forum or Colosseum, the Athenian Acropolis, and all manner of ruined castles, temples and abbeys in their original glory; or, alternatively, to see tableaux vivants of historic events superimposed on the buildings in which they took place.

To date, BMT Group says, it has trialed the application in Turin, Italy, and Winchester, England: in Turin, the app was used to show how the Reggia di Venaria (a famous local palace) would have looked in its heyday, as well as to re-create a forgotten temple; while in Winchester, it was used inside the Great Hall to overlay images of King Arthur and his knights sitting at the Round Table. "iTacitus gives you a chance to go back in time and see ancient Europe appear before you in the modern world," Luke Speller, a BMT Group research scientist who is leading the iTacitus project, said in a prepared statement. "Have you ever passed a ruin and wondered what it looked like when it was in use, who used the building, did anything of significance happen there? iTacitus wishes to capitalize on this curiosity to ensure that the user has access to that information there and then, so that they get the required information before the flicker of curiosity goes out."

In addition to the superimposed environments described above, the application is also slated to offer what the iTacitus project's Web site calls "Annotated Landscape" ("abstract, context-sensitive information overlays showing images, texts and videos about a certain spot") and "Spatial Acoustic Overlay" (billed as "transporting a place's original ambience by virtually placing spatial audio clips in the surroundings") options. BMT Group also says that the app will suggest sites for people to visit, using information gleaned from their mobile phones: thus, the company says, "someone who has searched for the Uffizi gallery in Florence will automatically be sent information about the Accademia gallery and the best way to get there using public transport."

According to a report in the UK newspaper, The Times, iTacitus guides are in development for St. Paul's Cathedral in London and Edinburgh Castle, and are expected to cost around £3 each. A demo video of iTacitus being used in the Reggia di Venaria is above.

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