Rome MVR (mixed virtual reality) is a very cool and innovative iPhone app that allows you to see views of the Roman Coliseum today, and -- with a tap on the screen -- also shows you 3D computer renderings of the location as it was at the peak of the Roman Empire. If you are actually at the location, the app activates the iPhone camera, engaging what the developers call the 'Time Leap' system so you see the Coliseum as it was. Move left and right, up and down, and your 3D perspective changes. If you aren't in Rome, you get current photos, and you can still move your iPhone to survey the site.
The app is free, but you only get the Coliseum to explore. You can also check out the Roman Forum and Imperial Forums, but those locations are an in-app purchase of US $1.99. If you are actually in Rome, an onscreen tool will help you walk to vantage points that exactly match the renderings. You can watch the live view fade into the ancient view. There is also narration about the sites you are looking at. Even if you are looking at the pre-loaded images, you can still rotate your view and watch the transition between old and new. It's impressive.
I never expected a cell phone to become a compelling educational tool, but I'm seeing more and more of that and Rome MVR is a perfect example. The developers are working on a similar app for Egypt, and I could see uses for this technology on Civil War battlefields, the beaches at Normandy, or a host of historical sites anywhere in the world.
This is a very clever app, and I'd suggest you try the free version to get an idea how it works. I was drawn into the content, so I grabbed the Roman Forum to explore as well. If you'd like to see the app in action check out the Rome MVR video to get a better idea how Rome MVR works.
Rome MVR runs on an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad (not full screen) and requires iOS3 or above.