Making the Unknown Known & the Past Present via High-Tech Image Capture & VR

Making it possible for people to walk through history and see significant places and objects layered with stories of the past is one way VR and AR can capture the world and open it up for discovery and exploration.

While a picture is worth a thousand words, an immersive VR experience is worth a million.

I have been testing VR/360° content for the last couple of months and have really enjoyed visiting places I could or would never go and learning about topics I might have ignored otherwise - all in a much more immersive and compelling way than viewing pictures, video or text. I recently visited the White House and sort of hung out with the Obamas thanks to the virtual tour they gave me, providing a lot of information about the historic objects they pointed out along the way. It truly felt like a privilege  - Barack, Michelle and I strutting through all these important rooms in this iconic building. I felt present and the experience remains memorable.

The same goes for the immersive tour of one of the previous space shuttles via the VR experience via Light Fields I took part in a couple of weeks ago. It's not really interactive or anything super dynamic, but I got into it quickly and felt like I was as close to being there and seeing things right before my eyes as I ever could be. I knew more about space discovery after the virtual tour than before and I felt like sharing all the details with family and friends, just like I do when at a museum or on an informative tour. The only bad part - which truly felt odd and a little annoying even - was that I couldn't take pictures. It's weird - but when you start feeling immersed, that urge to capture what you're seeing to share with others is strong for those of us addicted to taking photos with our phones. You see such urges and addictions are already being "solved" in experiences like Facebook Spaces, where you can use a virtual selfie stick to take a virtual selfie. Adding that kind of ability to a 360° experience wouldn't be possible - but hopefully it will in VR content as it improves. At least in this day and age, such extras would add to the experience and create sharing and social possibilities, which might increase the interest and use of VR and AR heritage and history apps. Lets' face it, for a lot of people, if there's no picture to post of cool stuff you've seen, it didn't happen! ;-)

If you have a decent headset and are interested in US history, try out the White House experience I mentioned above yourself below or via the Oculus shop (for free). Again, it's not very interactive but it does manage to let you to feel like you are sort of there and see things in a less-distant way, while hearing the stories behind them by the former president and first lady themselves.

In the below video, you can also get an idea of the Light Fields experience (I mentioned above regarding the space shuttle tour), which could become a powerful way to explore heritage sites. The image quality gets better and better due to high-tech cameras (GoPro Odyssey Jump with 16 rotating cameras) that capture light in an extraordinary way. You can see an example of the cameras at work in the video and get a taste of several visually and historically significant locations.

The big news on VR in heritage this week came from none other than the mighty Google thanks to its new Open Heritage Project.

Working with the non-profit company CyArk, Google hopes to preserve important places that might not be around forever and make them accessible to the you's and the me's of the world from our living rooms, work desks and classrooms, rather than just at museums. This isn't a particularly new idea, though it is a noble one of course. Google probably has more money and power to hopefully make the project into something valuable, powerful and significant. You can see a lot of professional, semi-pro and starter 3D -VR heritage work via sites like Sketchfab, which is worth a look. Google and CyArk will bring such  photos and renders to life thanks to laser scanning, photogrammetry and LiDAR technology that CyArk is using.

Watch this video to see how "we are losing the story of where we came from" thanks to "natural disasters and human conflict" and how Google, CyArk and so many other 3D and VR content producers are trying to help us hold on to what is or will be lost by capturing it and sharing it with us in an immersive and memorable way. Right now, there are 27 heritage sites you can explore via the Open Heritage project, with more surely on their way.

Photogrammetry is essential to capturing high quality images, which are vital to creating immersive and rich heritage, history and travel experiences in VR. Such experiences can be extremely useful for education - and to achieve a deep view and the feeling of being present. It's easy to imagine the limitless possibilities as the image capturing and rendering, as well as headsets, content, computing power and memory, continue to develop and improve. If you want to know more about what CyArk is doing and about the power of photogrammetry, here's a just under 30 minute inteview with CyArk from February 2018. You can also see more of their heritage creations here. Just to be clear, LiDAR image capturing technology is far more accurate, especially for heritage projects, but it's too expensive technology for most projects. In the video, the guys from CyArk explain the LiDAR definitely serves their heritage projects better (so luckily they have now teamed up with Google who can afford it ;-)) - but that photogrammetry is good enough for general VR usage. Have a look at this article to get some info on the difference.

Going back to outer space, below you can see some takeaways from a January 2018 presentation by Charles White, a JPL’s Knowledge Management Specialist for the Office of the Chief Engineer. White talks about "Virtual Heritage: Knowledge Management in VR" during the "Virtual and Augmented Reality for Space Science and Exploration" symposium at the Keck Institute for Space Studies. Even though it's mostly about VR uses for space simulation, discovery and practice, White draws our attention away from "project management" and turns to "knowledge management." He looks at VR storytelling as the modern-day campfire, with people sharing stories, knowledge and experience.

Scroll down for the full presentation via video and have a quick view at some of the slides below. There's a lot of food for thought about how VR can preserve, create, stimulate, make it easy to collaborate - and how "experience" is the key to knowledge and learning. VR can help us experience places and stories that are out of our reach, such as outer space, underwater worlds, war-torn monuments, far-off lands and buried treasures, just to name a few.

 

Storytelling was the first way to be "immersed" in a virtual environment.

Stories transfer knowledge to others in order to survive.

 

Can you see what I see? We are telling stories...

We are getting more value - We are saving money!

Learning is experience. Everything else is just information. ― Albert Einstein

There's a lot more to be said about using VR for heritage - and using AR, which down the line will probably be much more important and interactive. Keep your eyes open for evolutions in not only VR but also AR and heritage.

by Sarah Markewich – SIVAR project intern spring 2018


Bezoek het ISS in Virtual Reality

De meesten onder ons zullen helaas nooit het ISS kunnen bezoeken in persoon. Tot voor kort moesten we het doen met video's en foto's van NASA. Maar met de Oculus Rift kan u nu het ruimte station bezoeken in Virtual Reality. Je hebt keuzes uit een True-to-life simulatie als ook een training en een vrije verkenning mogelijkheid in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Met behulp van een Oculus Touch controller, kunt u binnen komen in het ruimtevaartuigen dock, op ruimtewandelingen gaan en zelfs bedrijfskritische taken uit te voeren als een echt bemanningslid. Hiervoor werkte Oculus samen met NASA, het Europees Ruimteagentschap en de Canadian Space Agency om een missie te maken: ISS VR-ervaring.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVDy0B_X-fo