Just had an interesting conversation with Joe Rigby, of MellaniuM Design
He was showing me a plugin that they’ve developed for exporting AutoCad models into the Unreal2 engine, and then scaling the textures back onto the model (usually, one would use something like 3d Studio Max or Maya to import models into Unreal2). From an archaeological point of view, archaeologists have been using AutoCad for years to create reconstructions of sites. To get those models into a world engine usually’d involve all sorts of translations, but if you could import directly from your existing archaeological AutoCad model…. you’d suddenly be able to experience the space that you’ve recreated. A 3d picture is still just a picture. Experiencing the space makes – as it were – a world of difference. Read Diane Favro or Kevin Lynch for a start on the importance of experiencing space.
In the demo Joe showed me, he walked his avatar around several architectural reconstructions (houses, etc), into a large art gallery / museum (pictures on the wall never pixellated, which was nice), and by their reconstruction of the Titanic. All the textures were very photorealistic, at least as good if not better than anything I’ve seen in SL. This being Unreal2, he had to turn off the weapons, etc, but he did show a novel use of the sniper-scope feature, zooming in on the detail of his model. Unreal2 brings people into the world via a peer-to-peer system, so allowing at least 30 odd if not more people to experience the same space at once: certainly enough for that class trip!
Joe’s interested to hear from any archaeologists who’re interested in exploring this technology, perhaps for some joint projects. I’d send him what I had, just to see what would happen, except I don’t have any AutoCad models lying about!