Virtual Reality and High Resolution

Why Engage in Virtual Reality & High Resolution?

Rebecca Moss

  • VR combines data, visuals and sound for immersive experiences through real or imagined spaces
  • High resolution images include 3D representations of objects for display or printing
  • Gigamacro photography allows examination of extremely fine details by zooming in on gigapixel images
  • Reflectance Transformation captures subtle surface details like tool marks or carved reliefs otherwise lost to traditional 3D imaging
  • Gives researchers and students more detailed and immersive routes for understanding the world
  • David Finsterwalder combined a 3D photo-scan of a Paleolithic excavation with details from archaeological databases to create a complete experience of the cave and objects in it

Explorations into the world of virtual reality (VR) and high resolution imaging offer scholars and students new ways to do research on, interact with and examine the world around us.

VR offers an immersive experience, allowing users to journey through spaces real or imagined by combining data, visuals and sound. In VR, users can wander around an ancient Roman city, fly through the solar system, create new works of art, or build virtual reproductions of existing spaces.

High resolution images can be produced in a variety of ways. 3D imaging involves capturing a digital, three-dimensional representation of an object. This includes both the three-dimensional makeup as well as the surface details like texture. 3D objects can be displayed on the web, incorporated into virtual reality simulations, used in animations, or even 3D printed.

Gigamacro photography is appropriate for items like large prints or tree cores, where the fine details can be seen by producing gigapixel images (more than a billion pixels per images) that can be zoomed into.

Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) is a method for capturing very subtle surface details of an object. For example, tool marks, scratches, or carved reliefs. These subtle details are sometimes lost during traditional 3D imaging.

This arena is rapidly developing, with new processes, equipment and software being created in response to the needs of researchers who need to take a closer, more immersive look at the world around us.

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Exemplary Projects

Professor Katherine Hayes: Thinking Through the Dirt
(University of Minnesota)

Photogrammetry with GIGAMacro images
(University of Minnesota Latis Labs)

3D Mapped HTC Vive Demo Brings Archaeology to Life
(Road To VR)

Recommended Tools for Virtual Reality & High Resolution

Learn more about the following tools that can facilitate virtual reality and high resolution.



Free game development platform, which can be used to create interactive 2d and 3d games and simulations, for VR, mobile, desktop, and the web. Unity has a relatively steep learning curve, and requires some familiar with 3d concepts. Basic programming knowledge is helpful as well. Similar technologies include Unreal and the Source game engine.



A simple 3d modeling tool, which can be used to create 3d shapes and structures for visualization in VR. Users can get started right away, though with some training, sophisticated products are possible.





A free, open source 3d modeling tool, which allows for both modeling, texturing, lighting and animation. Blender is fairly complicated, and requires a serious commitment to be useful. Similar products include Autodesk Maya and 3dsmax, both free for students.




A web-based toolkit for building basic VR experiences. Aframe uses markup (like HTML) to build 3d scenes. Many demos and walkthroughs are available to build familiarity. Knowledge of HTML and Javascript are helpful, but not required.

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