Dec. 3 - Students of ancient Rome can now immerse themselves in the world of Emperor Hadrian, who ruled the Roman Empire from 117 to 138 A.D. Hadrian's Villa is now a ruin located just outside Rome, but a team led by Indiana University's Professor Bernie Frischer has brought it - and its inhabitants - back to life. Ben Gruber reports.
Imagine going back in time, almost 2000 years, to take a tour of a lavish villa owned by a Roman Emperor... getting a first-hand, interactive look at a world where Greek gods and gladiators were part of everyday life. Thanks to Bernie Frischer, of Indiana University, that is now possible. Frischer has spent the last five years re-creating Hadrian's villa in perfect digital detail...a virtual world aimed at giving students of history and architecture a window into the past. SOUNDBITE (English) PROFESSOR BERNIE FRISCHER, INDIANA UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "For students in particular, the virtual world is very interesting - it has some extra educational oomph because the virtual world means they not only can explore the model interactively going left or right or going backwards or forwards as they wish, anywhere they want but they play the role of an avatar." And those avatars include everyone you would have expected to see at the villa at the time - from Imperial Court members and Roman senators to soldiers and slaves . Today, Hadrian's villa lies in ruins at it's location outside Rome. But Frischer's online version simulates the entire 250 acre complex as it would have looked during the final years of Hadrian's reign from 117 to 138 A.D. The task of bringing the villa to life fell on Ball State Professor John Fillwalk. He says historical accuracy was the foundation for all the code written into the interactive virtual world. SOUNDBITE (English) JOHN FILLWALK, DIRECTOR OF THE IDIA LAB, BALL STATE UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "There is lots of little nuances that I think, especially if you're a 3D gamer, you've come to expect in a really rich environment and we've tried as much as possible to integrate those kinds of fun moments of discovery for people." Dr. Marina Sapelli Ragni of the Italian Ministry of culture says the project it will open up a new world of learning not just for students, but for anyone curious about life in Ancient Rome. SOUNDBITE (English) DR. MARINA SAPELLI RAGNI, ITALIAN MINISTRY OF CULTURE, SAYING: "It's important for archaelogists of course but it's very, very important for the public, the big public and the world because they can have more interest to come to Italy, to visit our sites and of course to help us to protect them." Bernie Frischer says he hopes it will revolutionize teaching, and bring ancient history to life for a whole new generation.