The project's main aim is to make the contents of Macquarie University museums available to a wider audience. Currently, museums on campus serve the dual purpose of housing and displaying collections of artefacts from a range of disciplines, and providing community access to those collections through public and school tours, traveling exhibitions, etc, as well as forming a component of many undergraduate and postgraduate units at Macquarie. Emerging technologies such as virtual world creation software and 3D scanning devices mean that we now have the opportunity to offer these collections online to anyone with a web connection.
This project proposes to use specific software such as Platinum Arts Sandbox (PAS) together with 3D panoramic photographic capture devices to create a proof-of-concept virtual tour of a designated museum at Macquarie University. The exploration of this means of capturing a museum's contents and its subsequent online display will hopefully provide a framework for the development of larger-scale applications of these methodologies to any discipline which relies on collections of artefacts and their display.
Some initial thoughts on approaches to take
1. A Google Maps approach
Sharon suggested involving Google in the process of collection capture. StreetView technology, which most people would associate with panoramic views of suburban streets in Google Maps, has also been adapted for capturing interior spaces, using essentially the same devices on a wheeled trolley instead of on the roof of a car. Google has a very enlightened attitude towards developing and using accessible technology, so this fits in nicely with the basic concept of creating universal education-based learning objects.
2. Leveraged and adapted technologies approach
Dean has made a range of suggestions regarding networked software solutions that could be adapted to the aims of this project.
- One suggestion was the use of multiple photographic sources to build virtual objects such as buildings or other objects. Dean mentioned that Microsoft's Silverlight development was used to create an immersive virtual Notre Dame cathedral, sourced from 300+ photographs taken and submitted by tourists. Check out the project page here. This re-purposing of data sets (in this case, photos) was further discussed by Robert in the context of his Eco-Game development, which uses large datasets of ecological fauna surveys originally collated by James Cook University in a games-based learning approach to teach ecological assay techniques.
- Platinum Arts Sandbox (PAS), mentioned in the Overview above, provides the means to create virtual worlds with richly textured surfaces and some ability to provide game-like interaction. Dean mentioned that there is local expertise in Debbie Richard's group to create virtual spaces using Unity 3D, an equivalent but more complex world-building engine.
- Free open-source programs such as Blender can be used to create objects (perhaps archaeological artefacts using 3D scanning data) that can be added to virtual worlds.
- Open source software development kits (SDKs) include: Microsoft's X-Box Kinect, UnReal Engine 3 and CryEngine2. These can be used to create worlds or objects within them with varying degrees of complexity.
3. Games-based learning approaches
Games are all about motivation. What motivates people to immerse themselves in an intriguing novel, a real-world problem or a virtual world for hours, where they sometimes lose all sense of time or forget about more urgent tasks that need to be completed? This immersive state is usually referred to in the literature as "flow" and achieving it is often the goal of game designers and an increasingly large number of educators.
3.1 Museum tours as constructed narratives
Narratives could be either constructed by the visitor (as in the MONA in Hobart, where visitors use an iPOD for information on the exhibits and construct their own, recorded path through the museum) or as a story constructed by the curator, where successive parts of the storyline are revealed as each stage is completed.
Andrew suggested an approach where visitors are asked to familiarise themselves with a museum collection, then suggest a narrative that is then realised with artefacts in the virtual space. (See the notes in Dean's overview jpg - a page attachment, above).