“There’s an increasing interest in high-resolution imaging of world heritage sites because of recent events, iconoclasm or cultural cleansing, and also climate change issues that are devastating cultural sites. With high-fidelity imaging you have a huge reservoir for being able to retell stories about these extraordinary places that are now under threat,” says Professor Sarah Kenderdine, Director of the iGLAM (Innovation in Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) laboratory at the University of New South Wales, Australia.
She works at the forefront of immersive and interactive technologies and develops applications that typically involve interactive large-scale interactive systems and high-fidelity imaging techniques underpinned by high-speed broadband connectivity.
Panoramic immersion at the forefront of cultural heritage
One of her cutting-edge projects is a virtual life-size human-scale replication of China’s Dunhuang caves, which provides people with the opportunity to dynamically explore and interact with one of the most important cultural sites in the world.
“With high-fidelity imaging you have a huge reservoir for being able to retell stories about these extraordinary places that are now under threat…”
Dunhuang is world heritage site consisting of 492 painted caves with 45,ooo square metres of mural paintings and more than 2,5000 statues, all under serious threat of decay, with the majority of the caves closed to the public.
Through immersive interactive 3D projections of high-resolution archaeological datasets audiences are transported inside one of the caves as if they were physically there. Through a range of techniques, they are able to interactively explore the spatial layout of several caves, as well as cultural objects, including sculptures and the extremely dense narratives of the wall paintings.
Kenderdine’s research has produced several modalities of this environment, including a permanent exhibition in South China, a world-touring exhibition, and augmented reality and head-mounted display versions of the caves.
Towards a new paradigm for cross-cultural teaching and learning
The next stage is to create a ground breaking immersive-shared virtual classroom bringing content-rich humanities data for Silk Road studies across distributed learning sites. The project, which has received research funding in Australia and Hong Kong, will connect the City University of Hong Kong and the University of New South Wales using broadband-connected 3D 360 integrated visualization system technologies.
Real-time broadband data transmission and integration of graphics, video and audio via AARNet (Australia’s Academic and Research Network) and HARNET (Hong Kong Academic and Research Network) will enable real-time distributed cross-cultural interactivity with the Dunhuang Cave work for teachers and students of multiple subjects.
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