Tour Bible Times with UCLA’s Visualization Portal

Well, it’s not quite the Holodeck, but it still sounds pretty interesting. Has anyone ever heard about the Visualization Portal at UCLA before? I came across this in some reading this weekend.

A 40-seat theater with up-to-date virtual reality technologies located on the 5th floor of the Math Science Building, the facility is literally a portal into other times, places, and experiences. The Portal is used for both instruction and research, and has particular foci on Historical Architectural Monuments, Scientific Visualizations and Digital Technologies for the Performance Arts …

The historical architectural models shown in the Portal are an experiment in using virtual reality to recreate a place and time that no longer exist. Used both for research and instruction, there are currently 42 models under development to improve the understanding of the original historical site and to develop new applications that will ultimately heighten the research and instruction experiences.

Rhett Smith shares about his experience touring the Second Temple in the Visualizaton Portal. (The Second Temple was the reconstructed Temple in Jerusalem which stood between 516 BC and 70 AD. Solomon’s Temple, also known as the First Temple, was destroyed in 586 BC.)

Bel Air Presbyterian attender and UCLA Chair for the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures Bill Schniedewind was our host, as he walked us through the Second Temple. In just that short time the Bible was brought to life for me in ways that I could not have imagined. I have been to Israel, Syria and Jordan before, but even being there in person didn’t compare to walking through the Second Temple in practical “virtual reality.” Dr. Schniedewind also walked us through Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls which was also very, very fascinating.

You can view a sample video of the Portal here. The video takes you on a brief virtual reality tour of the Second Temple, the Coliseum, Port Royal, the Roman Forum, and of course a virtual UCLA campus. The video also includes samples from some of the scientific visualizations such as simulations of the creation of the universe, weather models, antibodies, etc. This sounds like a fascinating project and well worth a visit if you are ever in the area.

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