Mergin’ Mode: Mixed Reality and Geoinformatics for Monument Demonstration
- The authorities responsible for promoting specific cultural-touristic resources may exploit the portion of the system dealing with the development of the digital material. “Mergin’ Mode” authoring tool utilizes geographic information systems (GIS)-based functionalities to assist the development of virtual custom geospatial worlds presenting historical representations of the monuments. Beyond the typical thematic layers that may include the site terrain and vector graphics with areas, lines and points, additional themes may be added to compose sophisticated 3D scenes . Such themes may include 3D models of natural spatial objects (e.g., trees or plants) or of cultural objects of historical importance either moveable (e.g., amphorae) and immovable (e.g., temples) or “living” ones (e.g., people and animals). Other thematic layers may specify the routes of motion for moving objects, or the points/areas of placement for the stable ones. Although the overlaying of numerous thematic layers to form a photorealistic 3D scene is a relatively old technique, since the era of the first multimedia projects, such as Flash , the geospatial reference of all the involved objects nevertheless requires a GIS-based approach. Besides, the spatial reference is the key property of an object that specifies its behavior in response with the end-user location. Moreover, although virtual reality and 3D computer graphics technologies have evolved over the last decades, their co-existence with LBS is an issue that invites further research and development projects.
- The visitors/end-users perceive the digital material provided by the authorities of a monument as rendered over their camera, along with the monument in its current condition in a MR app. Considering the ubiquity of LBS in a vast number of smartphone apps, “Mergin’ Mode” invests in this evolving capability of establishing an on-demand, direct connection between the user of cultural digital material and the provider, without the need of specialized equipment except for a smart device. Although this issue is already raised [11,12,13], the developments so far justify additional research efforts and allow significant improvements. Someone could imagine the whole venture as being similar to that of the Google Maps: the user may download the maps for an area of interest and use them offline for routing purposes, whenever the device is located in that area. In our case, the material concerns cultural heritage resources and the representations of a monument along with historical events, which are triggered at the time of the user’s georeference in the area of the monument. Obviously, the material may be provided at the time of the visitors’ presence at the site, synchronously, through the authority’s communication infrastructure.
2. Similar Works
2.1. Mixed Reality and Location-Based Services: Recent Developments
2.2. Identifying State-of-the-Art Software
- Game engines: Their role in 2D and 3D graphics rendering, physics simulation, interactive animation and motion effects is decisive to place them as head of the related software table. Beyond the features recording support of the previously defined technological areas, the capability of acting as an authority tool is also recorded and their capability to operate on a browser.
- Libraries–platforms–prameworks: They were created to cover a broad range of functionalities, including basic geospatial ones, and graphics animations, and to cooperate with other software components to form complete solutions. This category records the same features as the above category.
- AR tools: This subdivision contains software exclusively focused on AR that is obviously cooperating with software from the above categories to form complete solutions. Some AR-specific, individual features were selected such as simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM), Geo-location, 2D and 3D images recognition and online-cloud recognition.
2.3. Specifying “Mergin’ Mode”
3. Materials and Methods
3.1. System Development
- Open platforms and programming languages supported by high-capability open libraries and frameworks.
- Open data and web services and interoperability standards introduced by international open standards communities, such as the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) and the OGC (Open Geospatial Consortium).
3.1.1. Open Software Development Platforms
3.1.2. Open Data and Services
- GML  (Geography MarkUp Language)—the XML-based standard that provides the ability to describe and transfer data and application schemas.
- I3S  (Indexed 3d Scene Layers Standard) to serve arbitrarily large amounts of heterogeneously distributed 3D geographic data.
- ARML  (Augmented Reality Markup Language) to describe virtual objects in an augmented reality (AR) scene with their appearances and their anchors.
3.2. Technological and Research Areas
- Contemporary photogrammetric surveying technologies using high-capacity cameras and/or cameras on UAVs.
- Image processing technologies for object recognition in images and videos for MR rendering.
- Geoinformatics technologies for core GIS based functionalities, such as thematic layers overlaying and georeferencing.
- Global satellite system technologies, for the visitor’s spatial reference in the archaeological-touristic site to achieve location-based servicing.
3.2.1. Photogrammetrical Mapping
- GoPRO Hero 3 Black (12Mpixel, wide angle lens, CMOS sensor).
- Panasonic Lumix GX80 (16mpixel, 28–70 mm lens, M4/3 sensor).
- DJI OSMO X3 camera (12Mpixel, 32 mm lens, 2/3″ sensor).
- NCTECH iSTAR 360 (14Mpixel 360 camera).
- RICHO Theta S 360 (50Mpixel 360 camera).
3.2.3. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
- senseFly eBee Plus (20Mpixel, 1″ sensor).
- DJI Phantom 4 Pro (20Mpixel, 1″ sensor).
- Parrot Anafi (21Mpixel, 1/2.4″ sensor).
3.2.4. Object Recognition
3.2.5. Mixed Reality and Space
- The repository of virtual geospatial world models, together with data and metadata that document the cultural-tourism resources represented through these models;
- Web services and servers that make cultural content available;
- Global positioning, video capture and internet connection technologies.
4.1. “Mergin’Mode” Authoring Tool
4.1.1. 3D Models of the Monument Area in its Current Condition
4.1.2. 3D Model of the Monument Area in its Past Condition
4.1.3. Other 3D Models
4.1.4. Creating the Custom Virtual Geospatial World of the Monument
- Importing the DSM/DTM of the area.
- Importing the surface texture.
- Importing the monument.
- Importing, rotating and scaling other 3D models.
- Placing models at selected locations.
- Implementing motion effects.
- Combining all to make a “living geospatial world.”
4.2. The “Mergin’Mode” End-User Component (App)
- Some of the key decisions during system design involved the equipment specifications for the smart app of the visitors of a cultural heritage resource. No equipment is required beyond an average smart device. “Mergin’ Mode” focuses on the capability of the smart device to capture the site with a moderate capacity camera and to receive—via the WiFi—the 3D models of geospatial virtual worlds, rather than to locate the exact position of the end user. Special equipment is only needed for the needs of photogrammetric surveying and the development of DTM/DSM and of the 3D modeling of cultural heritage sites. However, the above-mentioned activities are subject of third-party contractors and depend on the needs, the financial capacity and the maturity of the managing authority responsible for the cultural heritage resources.
Conflicts of Interest
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|Name||Open Source||Authoring Tool||Augmented Reality||Mixed Reality||Animation—Motion||GIS Functionalities||Browser-Based|
|Game engines||Unreal Engine||√||√||√||√||√*|
|Other: Amazon Lumberyard, BuildBox, GamePlay3d, Godot, jMonkeyEngine, LibGDX, OpenSceneGraph|
|Other: A-Frame, AwayJS, Babylon.js, Blend4Web, ClayGL, Construct 3, Filament, Hilo3d, HoloJS, litescene, Pex, PhiloGL, PhysicsJS, PixiJS, PlayCanvas, SceneJS, stack.gl, Turbulenz, Two.js, voxel.js, x3dom, xeogl, zen-3d |
* Support via add-on/plugin
|Name||Open Source||SLAM||2D Image Recognition||3D Object Recognition||Cloud Recognition||Geo—Location||GIS Functionalities|
|Other: AR.js, Amazon Sumerian, ARGear, ARToolKit, Augment, AvatarPartners, blippar, BLUairspace, DeepAR, DroidAR, EasyAR, EON 9 Studio, Inde, Broadcast AR Development, Insider Navigation, Kudan, LiveAvatar, Lumin, Maxst, OpenSpace3D, Pikkart AR SDK, PlugXR, ScapeKit, Triple, Vidinoti, ViewAR, VISCOPIC Pins, VisionLib, WakingApp, ZapWorks|
* Support via add-on/plugin
|Import xyz||Importing space (three dimensions) coordinates values that may be in a CSV file extracted from a typical Digital Elevation Model or DTM/DSM. Practically this is implemented through the transformation of the design dimensions (pixel values) into a specified coordinate reference system|
|CRS Support||Transforming coordinates of a model to a known coordinate reference system|
|Spatial reference||Assigning coordinates of a known CRS to model|
|Geometries Support||Connecting xyz points with lines based on known geometries (e.g., plane geometry)|
|Scaling||Adjusting the size of a model according to the measurement units of the georeferenced model of the area|
|Web App||Functioning over the World Wide Web|
|Web Services||Exchanging data with data sources and end users via http requests|
|Serving Level of Detail||Adjusting the quality of served 3D models according to end-user device and network capacity|
|Open Standards||Utilizing W3C and OGC Web Services|
|Animation||Loading animated 3D models|
|Motion||Defining motion paths for animated 3D models|
|Interactive motion||Specifying on-the-fly rules of motion|
|Vector layers||Supporting thematic layers, in order to be used for specifying 3D models placement or motion paths|
|Overlaying||Supporting superimposition of multiple thematic layers|
|Events triggering rules||Defining topology rules for triggering events. This practically means activating motions of 3D models based on the end-user location|
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Evangelidis, K.; Sylaiou, S.; Papadopoulos, T. Mergin’ Mode: Mixed Reality and Geoinformatics for Monument Demonstration. Appl. Sci. 2020, 10, 3826. https://doi.org/10.3390/app10113826
Evangelidis K, Sylaiou S, Papadopoulos T. Mergin’ Mode: Mixed Reality and Geoinformatics for Monument Demonstration. Applied Sciences. 2020; 10(11):3826. https://doi.org/10.3390/app10113826Chicago/Turabian Style
Evangelidis, Konstantinos, Stella Sylaiou, and Theofilos Papadopoulos. 2020. "Mergin’ Mode: Mixed Reality and Geoinformatics for Monument Demonstration" Applied Sciences 10, no. 11: 3826. https://doi.org/10.3390/app10113826