Digitisation in discussion: Perception Codes in conversation with UNESCO Bangkok
Augmented reality (AR) specialists, Perception Codes have made great strides in the museum space in 2021. In July, it was announced that the launch of Perception’s Holo-Museum platform would feature a collaboration with both the Imperial War Museum and Science Museum Group.
Holo-Museum uses Perception’s desktop AR hologram technology to create immersive digital exhibitions that can be enjoyed anywhere and at any time using nothing more than the Desktop AR app and a pair of 3D glasses (typically costing less than £1).
Already these exhibitions have received warm reviews, having been rolled out to a number of UK schools as part of the museums’ educational offerings. And now, the team at Perception are making institutions and organisations around the world aware of the broader potential of Holo-Museum.
The type of digitisation and democratising of learning experiences offered by Perception has become a clear focus for many cultural institutions in recent years, particularly in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. UNESCO Bangkok, with its role in providing technical expertise and assistance in the Asia-Pacific region, is seeking ways to develop their digital footprints.
As Chief of Culture Unit for UNESCO Bangkok, Dr Duong Bich Hanh, explains:
“Museums, cultural heritage sites and artists have been heavily hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. We have seen many of them bring their works and artefacts online through the pandemic and so it been important that we’ve explored this issue further. We are focused on helping to facilitate and support the growth of the digital competencies that can benefit the culture sector”.
This sentiment is echoed by Dr Montira Horayangura Unakul, UNESCO Bangkok’s National Officer for Culture and an expert in World Heritage:
“Our role at UNESCO isn’t just about how we can conserve things in perpetuity but also how cultural resources can be used as a means to update cultural identities, generate income and promote social cohesion, among other things.”
Dr Hanh suggests that in Asia and the Pacific where the majority of museums are government funded, it is particularly important that technology projects and digitisation activities are cost effective and even have the potential to generate revenue. This ties in with one of the most appealing aspects of Perception’s Holo-Museum, which not only offers museums the opportunity to generate Holo-NFTs that can be traded but also deliver digital exhibitions using their own preferred commercial model.
Dr Montira adds: “Heritage sites and cultural institutions are all about trying to convey a message and share knowledge, so getting that out to people more broadly via digital means is something we can see real value in. And, of course, it is important that the barriers to entry are low so that people can access content freely rather than having to buy expensive hardware.”
There are significant accessibility challenges facing communities in Asia and the Pacific. As an example, Dr Hanh suggests that still a large number of Thai people currently do not have reliable access to internet connections. Fewer still have expensive and complex hardware such as VR headsets.
This is something that Holo-Museum caters for. Requiring a smartphone and just cardboard 3D glasses to work, the platform can be enjoyed more easily than would be the case with VR headsets.
As Perception CTO and Co-Founder, Dr Krisada Chaiyasarn, says, “Museums, artists and cultural institutions have shown over the last two years that they can reach large audiences without having to drive physical footfall. What we are doing with our proprietary technology is enabling them to elevate these virtual experiences without requiring large investments – both for the museum and the end user.
“Through Holo-Museum we provide an immersive but accessible way to present exhibitions, artworks and artefacts so that it is possible to inform and engage audiences around the world.”
Documentation and data collection with added benefits
“At UNESCO we have a part to play in connecting innovators and technology institutions with our partners to facilitate progress in cultural heritage activities,” say Dr Montira. “One of these is obviously heritage protection work – where baseline information, documentation and consultable data is particularly important. And that’s where tools like photogrammetry and 3D scanning technologies have proven themselves to be especially relevant – particularly in tandem with GPS location tools.
“Whether it is at the level of an object, a building or a town, recording assets in a way that is practical, efficient and cost effective is the goal.”
Dr Hanh adds, “UNESCO is also the secretariat of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. This Convention is about protecting cultural objects and particularly fighting illicit trafficking of cultural objects. Having clear records of artefacts and art objects is something that we have put a clear emphasis on in the last few years as a way to prevent thefts and help law enforcement solve crime.”
These considerations, Dr Krisada explains, represent another key area where Perception’s Holo-Museum platform can help:
“Scanning and documenting can be an expensive process, even with new technological advancements and improvements in accuracy and scalability. One of the benefits of Holo-Museum is that by creating holographic experiences out of the scans, we can help organisations to monetise the process and generate a revenue stream to support the scanning or photogrammetry process.
“In the event that artefacts are stolen or natural disasters damage heritage sites, having a holographic version also serves to capture those assets in a point in time forever – so even if the physical artefact is lost, it will still be reproduced in NFT form.
“The storing of NFTs using blockchain technology means that intellectual property can be recorded and licensed effectively. Having ownership on the blockchain will be an important part of protecting against fraud.”
*The article was first published in MuseumNext, 20 January 2022
Main photo credit: © Perception