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The Making of a Virtual Reality Experience of a World Heritage Site under a Conservation Order

The Hal Saflieni Hypogeum is not completely off limits to visitors. But the site is so delicate, so unique, its subterranean environment so critical for the conservation of the red ochre murals that visitors are limited to a very small section of the 5,000 year old complex, constrained by a gangway to keep feet off the ground. The hypogeum is in perpetual semi-darkness, except for a choreographed spot lighting of areas based upon the guide’s explanation.

The brief for this research project was to bring the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum back to life for all those who have cultural heritage at heart, providing a virtual model that may be explored in its totality and to its minute detail. This work is the result of research carried out by students and academic staff of the Department of Computing at Saint Martin’s Institute of Higher Education.

Benjamin Franklin, (1706–1790) found fame as a statesman, author, publisher, scientist, inventor and diplomat. He is probably remembered most through his quote, ‘there are only two things certain in life: death and taxes’. This statement reverberates throughout society with differing ideologies determine whether a Country is a Super State with collection of high rates of taxation offering extensive services to the population free of charge, or a Minimalist State with Government taxing at the very barest minimum, leaving it up to individuals to fend for themselves.

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The Maltese tend to be at the centre of the two extreme systems with our rates just below the European average, and practically right at the centre of all European nations.

Education is one of the Services offered through transfer payments in Malta - from the taxpayer to the community.

One of the biggest expenditures of the Maltese Government’s annual budgets is for the provision of free education — from kindergarten to tertiary. And this results in a very dominant State when it comes to education, with only a small percentage of children and young adults are not educated through the State Institutions. This State dominance is nowhere more pronounced then at Tertiary Education, where the two main Government Institutions, the University of Malta and MCAST literally domninate the skills and competences that the upcoming generations of Maltese will possess. …

Does mathematics have to stop you from studying computer science?

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Many boys and girls are lost from the computer science profession because of the myth that students need to be mathematical gurus to be involved in computing!

Breaking the myth!

First off, computers are mathematical machines, and a knowledge of math related to computing is very helpful to fully understand how the central processor works, and how machines communicate with other devices. But computer science has developed in leaps and bounds from its origins as a number crunching machine 80 years ago. As computers reach their octogenerian years, technology has evolved so much, in miniaturisation and exponential growth in power, that most of us today actually carry a powerful super computer that would have needed a football stadium to house, in the early days. …

A FREE Summer Bootcamp offered by Saint Martin’s Institute of Higher Education and financed by the eSkills Foundation

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Computing has now become utterly indispensable in many fields, particularly in natural sciences and engineering. It had advanced from a tool to exploit existing knowledge to a means of discovering new knowledge. The main impact of the computer in science will not come as its past role as a powerful research instrument, but rather as an active participant in the development of scientific theories.

Students’ education must be complete, whatever the circumstances!

Maltese families are obsessed with the educational attainment of their children, and make every effort for their kids to graduate and qualify for a decent job with prospects to advance and build a sustainable career. This obsession that their child MUST attain the necessary points in the Matriculation Certificate to enter the University of Malta, makes many parents pay a king’s ransom on private lessons to ensure their kids make it to freshmen year.

But this year is different — in a bad way!

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Assimilating knowledge — working with others — trying things out & succeeding is the higher educational cycle!

With this year’s Matriculation Examinations happening this very month — right on the eve of the start of an academic year, and results scheduled to be published well into the Autumn semester, many students are stressed out! Coping is not easy. Sitting for the advanced and intermediate levels in September, and immediately start intensive studies with the first semester at a higher education institution is tough — then add the possibility of not attaining the necessary 36 points and having to either repeat hoping to get the points to remain in the course, or be booted out, missing a year in their education!

Balancing the scales

Unfortunately, Hollywood’s portrayal of a computer scientists is the Penelope Garcia ‘nerdy’ stereotype. Every little detail of the tech analyst as the back bone of the Criminal Mind team, is designed to portray a person with only one joy in life — to hide behind a computer screen and override the brain synapses to match a complex world wide web of computer databases ready to be accessed (hacked even)!

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Penelope Garcia in the global hit series Criminal Minds by CBS

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Virtual Reality (VR) is the use of computing to offer an immersive sensation to a human being of environments that may be difficult or even outright impossible to visit.

VR is still at its infancy, but the hardware is advancing and prices are becoming relatively cheap. The impediment at this moment is the lack of content that attracts the market, and thus content developers are looking into providing material that would be of interest to the masses.

The Hal Saflieni Hypogeum is not completely off limits to visitors. But the site is so delicate, so unique, that its conservation takes precedence above all else. Thus, visitors are limited to specific sections of the complex, and constrained by a gangway to keep their feet off the ground. …

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Born and living in Malta is veritably being born and living in a museum. Every town and village is steeped in history that spans centuries and millennia. It is unnatural for any Maltese citizen not to appreciate the countless artefacts that have been left as evidence of the tumultuous lives of our ancestors who had to strive for survival.

As tribute to our nation, we at Saint Martin’s Institute of Higher Education are dedicating our research and innovation efforts to portray the cultural wealth of our nation. We chose #LoveMyCountry as our tag line. …

Get Connected

Discord Connectivity Options

You can connect to the SMI Server on Discord using any one of the following options:

- Web Browser (

- Discord Application installed on your computer system (PC/Mac)

- Mobile App (Android/iOS)

- Tablet App (Android/iOS)

Connecting via Web Browser:

Go to

Choose [Open Discord in Your Browser]

If you don’t have a Discord account yet, continue to Registering via Web Browser

If you have a Discord account already, you can login with your email and password

Registering Via Web Browser

You will be asked to enter a username

● For simplicity’s sake you are asked to enter your full name and SM number

○ E.g. …

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Anything … Anywhere

Faculty members from the creative computing department at Saint Martin’s Institute of Higher Education is working to showcase Malta’s rich built heritage, even as complex and delicate as the World Heritage Site -Hal Saflieni Hypogeum - to a wide audience anywhere in the world, using leading edge technology.


Saint Martin's Institute of Higher Education

@stmartinsedu Maltese a licensed (№196) private, tertiary-level institution, offering University of London qualifications. #StartMyInspiration

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