The 8thC Buddhist stupa of Borobudur was chosen to test the viability of generic processes and techniques for the computer-based construction of photo-realistic space, together with appropriate use of multimedia (image databases, sound and, eventually, panoramas and video), and for their serving over the web (or via a CDROM) to a web browser.
The academic impulse for Borobudur (and the projected Piazza del Popolo project: see below) stems from the need to experiment with the use of the web as a delivery vehicle for high-quality, detailed and flexible multimedia learning tools which transcend the restrictions of the printed page and linear video. This accords well with the ANU's current Strategic Plan, including the aim of this University "to be renowned for strengths in development and innovative use of information technology in all areas of its activity, including the provision of a challenging and stimulating learning environment based on curricula underpinned by the latest research and supported by the most appropriate technology".
Experiments have already taken place in putting Borobudur on The Wedge (in the Supercomputer Facility), to permit "immersive" Virtual Reality rather than the "window-based" presentations available using a standard computer monitor. Such a construction of context is essential if our students are going to be able to approximate - in Art History as in several other disciplines - to "being there". Borobudur will probably feature in a "Wedge" currently under construction by the ANU's Supercomputer Facility for the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney.
The next project to undertake is a presentation of the Piazza del Popolo, Rome, the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, and adjacent monuments, which will be of interest to classicists, art-historians and architects. Piazza del Popolo will push VRML technology much further because, whereas the Borobudur stupa deals largely in flat reliefs, Piazza del Popolo requires the location of many, much more complicated three-dimensional objects in constructed computer space. Hampered as always by machine and network speeds, it is nevertheless expected that next year's machines will be able to cope with the large quantities of extra data that the much more sophisticated Piazza del Popolo project will entail. Piazza del Popolo, like Borobudur in 1999/2000, will feature in taught units in 2000/2001. ~