Roman all over the Antonine Wall will be a 3D thrill for all

Picture: Rob McDougall
Picture: Rob McDougall

How would you like to travel back in time to see what the Antonine Wall was like when the Romans first built it?

Very soon, you’ll have that chance thanks to a unique new project, bringing together partners from across Europe.

The Advanced Limes Applications project (ALApp), spearheaded by Historic Environment Scotland, has been awarded £150,000 from Creative Europe.

It will see cutting-edge technology being used to create a 3D app for the full length of the Antonine Wall.

Scottish, German and Austrian partners will work together to create the mobile app platform, the first part of which will launch this month at Barhill Roman Fort, near Twechar.

Patricia Weeks, Antonine Wall World Heritage Site co-ordinator for Historic Environment Scotland (HES), was only too happy to explain the project.

She said: “Our main goal is to increase access and understanding about the Antonine Wall.

“The original app was created in Germany around three years ago, with funds from the Bavarian Savings Bank – similar to the Lloyds TSB Foundation here.

“We saw it, loved it and were keen to extend it for use in Scotland too.

“However, we wanted to add extra elements to the app, which is how the funding bid came about.”

HES is now working with Christof Fluegel from Germany and Erik Dobet from Austria to further enhance the platform they initially designed.

They are working hand in hand with world leaders in 3D visualisation at Glasgow School of Art’s Digital Design Studio to ensure the app is perfectly pitched for an international audience.

Explaining why, Patricia said: “We’re developing the content management system so it’s capable of taking in augmented reality.

“So people will be able to stand at the wall and see artefacts in 3D on the site, while discovering more about the history of the wall and its inhabitants.

“We’re also developing it so people can use it in the museum but be transported to site, and vice versa. Our team is also adding in a lot of local content.”

To ensure that content is historically accurate, HES is working closely with councils in Falkirk, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire and East and West Dunbartonshire.

User testing will also be carried out, most likely with schools and community groups.

And once the three year project is complete, the technology will be shared with partners globally.

Patricia said: “We’re taking a basic tool and improving on it for a Scottish audience.

“We’ll then hand back the improved version to our colleagues in Germany.

“Other countries in the Frontiers of the Roman Empire are also likely to benefit.

“It’s all about maximising resources with our partners across Europe and even further afield.”

The content creators have created 3D models of the sites by scanning each of them, in addition to artefacts in the Hunterian Museum.

Patricia explained: “People will be able to virtually manipulate any object – for example, you’ll be able to fully examine a shoe found on site.

“It’s almost like handling the item but you’ll see it in 3D on your smartphone instead.

“As you walk along the route, different objects will pop up to investigate.

“It’s a new way of interpreting sites which is interactive and far more exciting for visitors.

“It will be free and very simple to use – a click of a button and you’re there. So if you can use a smartphone, you’ll be able to work it.”

Parts of the technology will be launched this month at Bar Hill Fort, where HES first started experimenting.

Two sites a year will then release the technology.

Watling Lodge in Falkirk and Kinneil in Bo’ness will launch in March 2017, Bearsden Bath House and Croy Hill in 2018 and Rough Castle near Bonnybridge and Old Kilpatrick in West Dunbartonshire in 2019.

Patricia added: “At Bar Hill, where only foundations remain, you’ll be able to see what the buildings would have looked like.

“The app won’t have all the technology when we launch it this month but it will be updated as we go.

“That’s the beauty of the technology we’re creating – we will be able to update it very easily and cheaply too!

“And people will be able to explore the wall – either on it or from their own sofa!”