IIIF 2017 Vatican

“Book of Fame” Prototype: Using IIIF to Rebind 2D Manuscript Images into 3D Virtual Books

Please note that the accompanying presentation script can be found in the speaker notes for these slides.

In addition to “Digital Tools for Manuscript Studies,” the Old Books New Science lab at the University of Toronto has been working to make the game engine Unity interoperable with IIIF-compliant image repositories. Directed by Alexandra Gillespie, the “Book of Fame” project uses IIIF to repackage 2D manuscript images in the form of interactive 3D books. The proposed lightning talk will demo a prototype 3D book viewer built over the past year, highlighting the critical, pedagogical, and creative innovations that are made possible by introducing IIIF into a video game development environment.

Created in Unity, the 3D book viewer aims to recapture the implicit materiality and spatial interactions of the reading experience that are lost to the “flattening” processes of current e-publishing models. Instead of scrolling through disembodied images, users are presented with a fully rendered book in a 3D virtual environment. Unity scripts are used to parse IIIF manifests and download images, mapping scans of manuscript pages as textures onto a prerendered book model. This “rebinding” of digital books as 3D objects restores the spatial link between recto and verso, simulating a more authentic reading experience by enabling users to engage with the materiality of the book; for example, users can more easily trace the depth trajectories of water damage and worm holes across pages, illuminating critical details about the book’s provenance.

The 3D book viewer takes advantage of IIIF-specific features such as the shared canvas model, allowing users to write annotation data to the manifest by simply placing sticky notes onto a page. A particularly innovative repurposing of the annotation manifest has the user reveal a plain-text transcription of the scribal hand by raising a magnifying glass to the page; a similar approach could be taken to multispectral imaging, having a flashlight reveal the same manuscript beneath different kinds of light. Lastly, as a gamification proof-of-concept, the 3D book viewer features a “search for the missing word” mini-game that combines IIIF-manipulated images and original artwork to tell a short, playful narrative that takes place upon the manuscript page itself.    

In sharing the prototype with the community, OBNS hopes to initiate a conversation on the practical applications of combining IIIF with immersive media technologies to enhance the experience of cultural heritage artifacts. While the lightning talk will focus exclusively on the 3D book viewer and its features, the OBNS team is happy to allow attendees hands-on time with the prototype and speak informally on the future of the project during the follow-up demo session.

Adriano Pasquali

Alexandra Gillespie

University of Toronto