In this century itself, we have seen monuments even cities vanish in front of our eyes. We have seen cityscapes change as more buildings are made and old ones renovated. It is hard to imagine how any place used to look even 10 years ago. Trying to imagine how a place looked hundreds of years ago is just out of the question. Sure, you can look at paintings of the place and have sketches of the buildings but to really learn about a place you have to be there. You have to see everything with your eyes in all 3 dimensions. With all the advances in technology, it is finally possible to truly experience a place; to see how places, that had existed hundreds of years ago and are in ruins now, would have looked in life-like sizes; to notice finer details that had gone unnoticed on paper till now.
The technology that makes it possible is 3D mapping and is probably the most important tool in Digital Humanities. 3D mapping a space is a way of recording available information and then creating 3D digital models of the elements in the space to study them better and in more detail. It helps visualizing the space in a life-like manner and recreate missing elements by connecting details that had previously been never noticed on 2- paper models. There are many 3-D mapping techniques but some of the most popular are mapping through infrared, laser or ultrasound sensors. The information that the sensors record are then translated into partial or full virtual model of the space, which the user can then see and edit to recreate different elements of the space. 3D models made by mapping spaces can be used to print physical models using 3D printing or experience the space through virtual reality devices like the Oculus Pro or Google Cardboard. Using these technologies together, we can experience the information in a much more immersive manner.
While going around the internet, I stumbled across a project called HyperCities. The project, run by Todd Presner, David Shepard, and Yoh Kawano and published by Harvard University Press, is an initiative to produce publicly accessible virtual worlds using 3D mapping technologies. They map and publish 3-D models of entire cities on Google Earth and aim to create a virtual database of all modern cities. They want to enable people to experience any place in the world as if they were actually there using virtual reality.
Imagine yourself walking through New York City, while sitting on a couch at home and experiencing the architecture or making measurement of the empire state building through accurate virtual models. In the coming years, all this and more will actually become a reality and transform the way we experience and study space, revolutionizing the field of humanities.