project, originally conceived as a 3D "atlas" of medieval history combined with linked translations and other relevant historical materials, has been in
gradual development since 2005. Initially, the software was based on a voxel system
which used the CPU only. In 2009 this was replaced by a polygonal system using
the video card. Work on the project accelerated in 2011 with the switch to a
better 3D graphics platform and more realistic video effects.
The goal is to make history "come to life" via a combination of 3D reconstructions
and access to detailed written records.
Today, so many extant medieval buildings are either in ruins or in a form which has been drastically
altered over time. But there are often surviving paintings or written descriptions which
give us a fairly clear idea of what these locations looked like in their prime. Researching
the evidence requires years of labor and usually a knowledge of the original
languages. Putting together 3D models and programming software to display the
geometry in vivid realism is also extremely time-consuming. But the final result is
the ability to explore medieval towns, cathedrals, and other locations,
the closest we can come to going back in time.
The visual effects that are currently programmed include projected
light from stained glass windows (creating glowing patches of color on objects);
shafts of light which show dust suspended in the air (creating a realistic haze effect);
based on volumetric patterns (see screenshot below); simulation of the effects of light on different materials
such as wood, metal, glass, and stone; realistic water surfaces with reflection effects
based on viewing angle, tinting of underwater objects based on suspended matter in the
water, simulation of water flow, surface perturbation and surface flotsam, and other effects.