Edited by Anna Bentkowska-Kafel, Christos Giachritsis and David Pyrtherch

There are many questions and issues we need to resolve when working towards a successful haptic system for virtual artefacts. Feel free to post your comments and questions here. Together we may find the answer. Comments will be posted at the Editors discretion and may be edited.

The virtual artefact has firmly established itself as a research tool within several disciplines of the Arts and Humanities. Many art and material culture historians and professionals rely on digital records and visualisations of artefacts in their research, teaching and practice. We have witnessed, from the 1990s onwards, how the virtual artefact has increasingly become photo-realistic and interactive, and how it continues to evolve. The virtual artefact can now be part of a complex, collaborative research environment. With the enhanced technical specifications comes the interest in exploring the research potential of virtual artefacts further. We are here concerned with enhanced simulation of the real experience of physical objects through the application of haptic interfaces, or virtual touch technologies. We believe that the addition of virtual touch would also contribute to greater usability of the existing, often neglected electronic resources and libraries of 3D artefacts.

3D file format

Access to haptic computer systems that facilitate a display of virtual 3D artefacts with simulated touch, is extremely limited. The re-use of existing 3D artefacts for such displays is hindered by the proliferation of incompatible 3D formats. For example, we have access – courtesy of King’s Visualisation Lab, King’s College London – to their VRML models of art objects and architecture, but they cannot be displayed on our haptic system unless they are converted to x3d format. The Image, Spatial, and Data Analysis (ISDA) group and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has identified over 140 formats of 3D files (June 2011). To aid digital content preservation the ISDA group is actively developing a number of tools which may offer solutions, such as: Software Servers, Polyglot, and the Conversion Software Register.

(Information courtesy of Kenton McHenry, 20 June 2011).