3D Virtual Tour of the Collection of Historical Titles at the Central Library of Engineering

October 2014 - March 2015
Person(s) in charge: 

Giulia Liberti (Prof. Juan Carlos De Martin's student)

Executive summary: 

The main topic of the master thesis conducted by Giulia Liberti stems from the need to make more accessible the collections of titles held by the Central Library of Engineering of Politecnico di Torino. The work developed during this thesis is based on an online application that allow students to explore the shelves of the Central Library by means of a virtual tour, expanding the range of its digital services.


In recent years, libraries are increasing their range of digital products, in particular through the lending of e-books publications and the digitization of printed material. At the same time, the latest research activities conducted on the virtual tours context show how libraries and cultural institutions have started to promote their collections with virtual tours systems based on two-dimensional spaces. Three-dimensional applications to make the experience of users more engaging and interactive are instead not as widespread.


The objective of this project is to create an online application to allow students to access the shelves of the Central Engineering Library of the Politecnico by means of tours in virtual environments. On the one hand, it is necessary to create a virtual view of the shelves with new acquisitions of the Library of Engineering, that contain approximately 25.000 titles. On the other hand, students should be able to explore a virtual reconstruction of the prestigious Hall of the Ancients ("Sala degli Antichi") that contains about 1,600 books, the oldest and most prestigious volumes held by the Central Library. Given the particular contents of the room, the values ​​of temperature and humidity are kept constant, and you can access it only with prior authorization, under the supervision of a librarian and for a limited time.


Two prototypes of virtual tours have been developed in order to reach the dual objective of exploring the shelves of new acquisitions and the Hall of the Ancients of Central Library of Engineering of the Politecnico di Torino.

The two-dimensional tour was created to allow users to see the backs of the books placed on the shelves of the new acquisitions of the Library of Engineering. The critical points addressed in this work is related to the creation of panoramic photographs of the shelves and the optimization of images resolution for the download, in order to maintain interactive performance ensuring the readability of book backs. The application consists of two processing scripts developed using the Processing Development Environment (PDE) The first one (about 1,000 lines of code) contains functions for the creation of the interface, for the dynamic loading of images, and for the management of interactions with the user. The second one (about 130 lines of code) actually contains only basic functions to draw a part of the interface.

The three-dimensional tour allows users to navigate within a virtual reconstruction of the prestigious Hall of the Ancients. You can select from the shelves a particular volume and get general information or, if available, access to the digitized version in PDF format. Main issues addressed in this work are related to the creation of the necessary information to the automatic reconstruction of the environment and the dynamic display of the contents of the volumes. The prototype of the project was created with the Unity game engine 4.6, using the integrated development environment MonoDevelop to develop javascript scripts.

2D tour - New Acquisitions: http://www.biblio.polito.it/tourvirtuale/
3D tour - Hall of Ancients: http://biblio.polito.it/sala_antichi/