Virtual Walkthroughs: The Plain of Jars, Laos

Across a stretch of dry grassland in the Xieng Krouang province of Laos, an eery landscape of rocky structures stand in clusters. Thousands of stone vessels, standing between 3 to 10 feet in height, their purpose unknown, spread out across the hills and valleys in stone cold silence.

The Plain of Jars have perplexed archaeologists for many years. Thought to have been constructed between 500BC and 200AD, they now sit across ninety sites, among a scattering of unexploded landmines and bombs from the Vietnam War. The plain, as such, has forbidden archaeological intrusion for decades, concealing its subterranean weapons well.

Now, however, breaking the silence with a cold buzzing in the airspace between the jars, come drones. These electric birds capture 3D images every 10cm, exploring every angle with analytical precision. Archaeologists are also seeking to deploy drones equipped with multispectral cameras, able to capture light from invisible frequencies, such as infrared radiation. Airborne laser scanning (lidar), too, will come to the drones, creating centimetre-accurate maps.

Virtual Walkthroughs, Excavation, and Learning

The use of drone technology for capturing the Plain of Jars in 3D virtual reality has also allowed archaeologists to uncover ancient human remains, and to understand more about the burial practices of the civilisations that called the plain home, long ago. It forms the first major archaeological effort since the 1930s, in an attempt to understand more about the jars, and who made them.

The data on the Plain of Jars is being collected by ANU and Melbourne’s Monash University. It will then be fed into an architectural visualisation, providing a 3D virtual tour of the site. Ultimately, these 3D virtual tours could be used in museums, allowing visitors the opportunity to engage with a virtual walkthrough of the Plain of Jars, or direct to smartphones, to be accessed by anyone, anywhere.

Virtual Museums: Ancient Architecture Virtual Walkthroughs

The concept of virtual museums is an emerging one. It’s already been used for art museums, allowing participants to take 3D virtual tours around galleries, and even directly into the paintings themselves. No longer will museums be standalone structures, where you passively walk past relic after relic, reading a paragraph of text on a plinth. Instead, whole monuments, ancient architecture, will be all around you, immersing you fully in the exhibit as though you were really there.

The virtual maps of the site may also be used for monitoring of changes in heritage sites like the Plain of Jars, over time. As such, an ongoing historical record of the state of relics and monuments can be collected, aiding with archaeological research in years to come.

“The potential, especially for places like Laos where there’s a serious UXO (Unexploded Ordnance) problem, is that using remote technology to explore and map archaeological sites is incredibly useful,” explains Dougald O’Reilly from the Australian National University’s (ANU) school of archaeology.

Architectural virtual walkthroughs, and immersive tours of archaeological sites, have massive implications across many industries and disciplines. Here, we can see a transformation in the way we excavate and learn more about the ancient ancestors who came before us, and use reconstructions of ancient architecture in virtual reality to explore places long gone, or inaccessible.

All of these functions, of course, feed into how we construct architectural visualisations of property and buildings now and in the future, both inspiring and enlightening how we work with CGI technologies in architecture, construction, and beyond.


If you’d like to find out more about using CGI technologies for architecture, planning, property development, or real estate marketing, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us for a chat. At VMI Studio, we are proud to be at the forefront of CGI technologies for the Property industry, and will be happy to talk you through how it all works, or to set you up with a demonstration of our work.