iMARECULTURE project, bringing underwater CH to the reach of the wider public
Succeeding in a very competitive call titled “Virtual museums and social platform on European digital heritage, memory, identity and cultural interaction”, iMARECULTURE H2020 Research & innovation project, has launched November 1st with a duration of 36 months. Elaborating over the call’s topic, the project focuses in maritime and underwater CH. The scope of the project is to address the challenges of bringing the underwater CH into public’s attention as something more tangible, by overcoming the limitations of time and space using VR & AR. At the same time will raise public awareness of European identity by focusing in maritime cultural heritage, which by default bridges different civilizations.
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are having a rapid development, but are far from being widely adopted. Companies release new Head Mount Devices (HMD), which will soon become as affordable as a desktop computer. Although driven by the gaming community, it is evident that their prospect is far from being fully exploited. New applications and content are necessary for this technology to be adopted in every day applications.
Virtual Museums (VM), on the other hand, have a lot more to benefit from VR and AR, than just being a real museum transposed to the web, or just an archive or database of 3D digital objects. They should provide tools so that to prolongue the museum experience while attracting visitors and enhancing their physical visit. Underwater Cultural Heritage provides an excellent prospect for VM, as it is inherently unreachable by the large majority of people.
Xlendi wreck; images taken by the ROV Super-Achille, deployed during the photogrammetric survey carried out from AMU-CNRS and COMEX.
Focusing on personalizing the visits, VR will be employed for dry visits to archaeological sites, through interactive storytelling. Holographic screens, HMDs and VR caves, along with UW tablets with AR for divers in underwater archaeological parks, will be leverage immersive and personalized experience. Aiming at prolonging visitor’s experience, two serious games will be developed to raise awareness of maritime archaeology. 3D puzzles, available for 3D printing, will also allow visitors to further prologue their experience, from the comfort of their home. The user experience of VR and serious games will be evaluated through questionnaires and electroencephalograms.
Villa con ingresso a protiro. Detail of the site after restoration.
The three different test sites (Mazotos shipwreck, Xlendi shipwreck and Villa con ingresso a Protiro of Baiae underwater park) are selected to implement the multidisciplinary approach of the project and accomplish the objectives. The selected pilot test sites are representative of different kind of Underwater CH, of different states of environmental and geomorphologic conditions and of different periods, to present the users a wide variety of the common European maritime culture. Additionally, as a demonstration of how VR may affect the experience of a visitor in a museum, holographic displays are going to be deployed in Thalassa Museum. Regarding the technical planning of the pilot tests and trials, the state of the art of the technologies to be tested on each test site was described, analyzed and finally selected. ΑR implementation will be tested in Villa con ingresso a Protiro of Baiae site, where conceptual data exist and it is accessible by tourists. VR implementations will involve mainly dry interactive visits at home or in museums, using various immersive technologies. For museum and home dry visits, VR technologies will be utilizing full resolution authentic 3D data, while the dry visits from home will use downscaled data because of bandwidth limitations and IPR concerns. For applications under controlled environment, such as labs and museum areas, full scale resolution and detail will be used.
“For at least the first two years, VR will be for hardcore gamers and enthusiasts who are willing to invest in high-end computers capable of running the Rift.” Palmer Luckey, Oculus Founder.
“iMARECULTURE envisages to literally change the way we look, observe, understand and interact with our underwater cultural heritage”, Dimitrios Skarlatos, project coordinator.
“At the formal lunch at UNESCO’s top floor restaurant, I ended up doing an impromptu presentation of iMARECULTURE to all speakers and distinguished UNESCO officials there.”, Alexandre Monteiro, Invited speaker at the International Meeting on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage Sites, UNESCO Headquarters, Paris (22-23 September 2016).
Mazotos shipwreck excavation documentation, using photogrammetry. @2016 UCY
Overall, iMARECULTURE envisages to design, analyze, develop and validate pioneer applications and systems in the context of Virtual Museums through collaborative and innovative research from a diverse group of scientists, researchers, archaeologists, experts and museums.
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