By Andrea Byrnes
One of the Petrie Museum’s 3D innovations is an iPad application, available for download free of charge. “Tour of the Nile” offers iPad owners a way of inspecting collection two dimensional images of artefacts in three dimensions.
The iPad is a hand-held computer without a keyboard, operated by touch screen, with an inbuilt video camera. In association with Arius 3D (www.arius3d.com) the Petrie has developed an Augmented Reality application (or computer programme), which currently allows iPad owners to examine a small number of artefacts in the Petrie collection wherever they happen to be. It is free of charge to download and use. More artefacts will be added soon, and the application will also be rolled out for iPhone users in the not too distant future.
So what does “Tour of the Nile offer”? Once downloaded (instructions below) the application consists of three main sections, shown on the above screenshot of the main menu. First there is a page that introduces Sir William Flinders Petrie and his excavations. Next, there is a page of information about the Petrie Museum of Egyptian and Sudanese archaeology. But the piece de resistance is the 3D artefact viewer, which is remarkably easy to use.
To use this excellent application, the first task is to visit the iTunes website to download the application, at http://itunes.apple.com/app/tour-of-the-nile/id599949929?ls=18mt=8. Next, you need to download the Augmented Reality images (“markers”) of the artefacts that you will be examining in three dimensions. You will need to point the iPad’s camera at these images so you will either need to print them off or display them on a computer screen other than your iPad’s. I downloaded mine to my desktop PC so that I could view them on the large computer screen. These images are in PDF format and area available from the Petrie Museum’s Download page at
Once this has been done, either bring up the Augmented Reality images on a computer screen or print them off.
Next, turn on your iPad, open the Tour of the Nile Application and tap on the “View artefacts in 3D with your camera” box (shown in the image above). This brings up a title screen. Just click “Tap here to start” and you are taken to a short introduction to the application. Click the red Menu icon at bottom right and you will find yourself in the main menu, from where you can navigate to any of the three sections: “About Petrie and his excavations,” “About the Petrie Museum” and “View artefacts in 3D with your camera.” Click on the View artefacts box. This
activates the iPad’s camera. Point the camera at the Augmented Reality image. In just a moment magic happens, and all of a sudden the two-dimensional image springs to life and moves apart from the background pattern. Touch the iPad’s screen to move the object, using your fingers to turn it this way and that, enabling you to examine front, back, sides and to zoom in and out. To find out information about the artefact just double-tap it, and an information box appears on the screen, showing the main details about the object.
It is easy to move between the three different screens. At the bottom left is a red Home icon, which returns the user to title page, or click Menu to go back to the Main Menu where you are presented with a choice of the three sections. At the bottom of the screen is a Help icon, which provides brief instructions on how to activate the marker from the iPad.
This is both a lot of fun and a real insight into the future of virtual artefact handling. Although you have to find the right distance between the iPad and the marker, and you have to experiment a little with holding the iPad with one hand whilst manipulating the image on the screen with the other, I was amazed at how quickly I became accustomed to moving the object on the screen to see different views of it, and was completely fascinated by the ability to see every aspect of each of the very different pieces in the PDF.
Having seen and used several of the Petrie’s other interactive applications (for both conventional computer and iPad) at the “Digital Petrie” event, I know that this is just one of many ideas that are being rolled out for the benefit of the public and professionals alike. I am impressed that at least one of those developing technologies is already available for the public to download and use free of charge.
At the moment there are only five markers (or images) available to download, but the application offers a marvellous opportunity to become familiar with a piece of leading technology, and get a glimpse into the sort of experiences that are being developed to make museum collections available to everyone, irrespective of where they are located.
The application is classified in the Education category on iTunes, and is rated for users of four years and over (a classification that means that there is no objectionable material, not necessarily that you should let your four-year old loose on your iPad!) It requires the iPad camera, is available for the iPad on iOS 6.0 or later and takes up 88.7MB and is at version 1.0 at the time of writing. If you need to check your iOS version, just go into Settings, then General, then Software Update – this will show you if your iOs is at 6.0 or above.
If you download and use the application we would be very grateful if you would fill in the user evaluation, which is online at:
Keep an eye on the Petrie’s 3D Twitter account for news about updates and new innovations: https://twitter.com/3DPetrie