— Digital Maps of the Ancient World (@DigitalMapsAW) April 19, 2020
Old depictions of what modern technology might look like all featured flying cars, futuristic talking houses, and living in space. Reality has been a lot more humble, but one thing that stands out is that we have used technology not to advance forwards into a future-scape, but to improve our ability to look back.
Technology has been used to date the contents of a dinosaur’s stomach in Canada, to depict what Tutankhamun actually looked like, and to develop an idea of how Neanderthals sounded. Rather than use tech to live in bubbles in space like The Jetsons, we have used it to help solve ancient mysteries. So, how can technology help us connect to the past?
Technology has given us a better glimpse into history and helped satiate those who have a desire to know more about the past. For example, 3D modelling has been applied to a site in Egypt to give us a virtual tour of a 5,000-year-old pyramid. The ability to see things virtually means that we can sit at home and explore as much of the past as we can.
The BBC has plenty of resources that give us a glimpse into the past and show us history in a way that many find more engaging than books and magazines. The virtual tours include experiencing life in the trenches, being aboard Captain Cook’s boat, and seeing what London Bridge was like in the 1500s.
— CTV News (@CTVNews) November 12, 2019
When conceiving virtual reality and the technology that goes alongside it, few actually expected it would be used to give us better pictures of battlefields and to help us understand about life in the past. Not only can it provide more for a shorter amount of time than reading a book can, but it uses technological findings to give us up-to-the-minute information. Moreover, VR helps give us perspective, such as understanding life expectancy and busting misconceptions about the average height of people living in the past.
Technology allows us to engage with the past through gaming. This might not necessarily unearth any centuries-old secrets, but it does mean we can use modern tech to engage with the past and learn more about the ancient world, for example.
For instance, gaming is rife with depictions of Ancient Egypt. From the iPhone classic Temple Run, that utilized the motion technology of the iPhone to Egypt: Old Kingdom, which ties together history with strategy. The online casino industry harnesses the latest technology for gaming, while also focusing on topics relevant to the past. Indeed, casino games such as Book of Dead present an Egyptian theme as we follow hero Rich Wilde into a pyramid to find lost treasure, using the latest in online gaming technology.
Moreover, first-person shooters enable players to learn about wars. Playing games where you are a soldier in the middle of combat gives a better appreciation for history and uses modern gaming technology to learn about the past.
Why is the Past So Popular?
The past remains wildly popular when it comes to entertainment – major blockbusters and Oscar winners are often period pieces, semi-biographical, or relating to events that happened. This is most likely due to the fact that we are naturally inquisitive and that each year cinematic technology, for example, improves, so we are able to get better glimpses at events in the past. Compare the SFX used for the warfare scenes in 1998’s Saving Private Ryan with the continuous shot that made up blockbuster 1917 in 2019.
Using the past to base entertainment concepts around allows us to work with what we know and answer questions about what people might not. It also is open to interpretation and a scope to tell stories in ways people might not be familiar with. Using technology to look back at a set point in time, the past allows us to gain a deeper understanding of it compared to using technology to try to create a future with flying cars.
Technology has been effectively harnessed to allow us to learn more about the past, while also embracing it in a hands-on way. Both VR tech and gaming tech have used history to outline how the technology works, while also providing an education and enlightening people on what things were like in the past.