Project Description

Using a broadly interdisciplinary team, Cognitive Mapping in Ancient Pompeii (CMAP) aims to develop two distinct but integrated products.  The first product, the project’s back end, will consist of a virtual laboratory for research on wayfinding and spatial cognition.  Combining digital 3D assets of houses, shops, and streets in the ancient city of Pompeii with 360º VR video captured on-site, CMAP will develop models that predict human movement patterns in these environments, and the impact of different variables (lighting, water features, wall paintings) on wayfinding and spatial memory. The predictive models will then be tested against player data, gathered as human subjects take on a series of navigational challenges in the virtual environments, using desktop and VR platforms.  Player testing will include EEG headsets that record basic neurological responses as subjects move through the virtual streets and houses.  The second product, the project’s public-facing front end, will consist of a web-based application that provides interactive visualizations of the data collected in the virtual laboratory, its interpretation, and what this tells us about how space and decoration shaped behavior in ancient Pompeii.  Focused first on a set of 6 houses and a 4-block stretch of the Via dell’ Abbondanza in Pompeii, the project will then expand to approximately twenty houses and the full stretch of the Via dell’ Abbondanza from the Porta Sarno to the Forum, roughly 23 urban blocks.  CMAP’s holistic environmental approach, with its creative combination of 360º VR video with 3D models in the Unity3d game engine, is transformative, because it brings together spatial analysis and actual player data, including brainwave response during navigation, and allows the correlations to be visualized and understood in the 3D environment itself.  Consequently, while its initial focus is ancient Pompeii, this project aims to provide a framework for predictive environmental modeling that is applicable across the disciplines concerned with human spatial behavior.  The project team is correspondingly broad, with members drawn from Anthropology, Archaeology (WLLC-ART), Architecture, Classics (WLLC), Computer Science, Game Design (Tesseract), Cognitive Psychology (HESC and COEHP), Marketing, and the University of Arkansas Rome Center.

Project Products

Via dell’Abbondanza