2016 is being called the year of Virtual Reality (VR). As the technology becomes readily accessible to consumers, organizations from the United Nations to the British Museum are finding ways to integrate the immersive technology into their cultural and heritage exhibits and programs. CyArk is uniquely positioned to unlock the world heritage in VR thanks to its world-class digital archive consisting of over 200 sites spanning over 40 countries and all seven continents. This data can be used to create unique VR experiences that will allow a user to gain unprecedented access to restricted and at-risk sites to explore.
Research suggests several major trends driving new educational practices within the next one to three years. These include inquiry-based learning and immersive learning practices, both of which can be achieved through virtual reality. CyArk’s goal is to rethink how education initiatives are designed so as to bolster engagement and drive more adoption of VR in classrooms, museums, and at home.
“A very small number of people during their lifetimes actually visit the many wonders of the world or even the historical and cultural heritage sites in their own countries. Students will now be able to visit historic sites around the world in a highly interactive environment through evolving virtual reality technology and CyArk’s captured site. Consider the enormous possibilities for inspiring curiosity and learning about world cultures” says Elizabeth Lee, CyArk’s Managing Director
Already CyArk, working with VR technology company Realities, has piloted several VR environments from sites including Ancient Corinth in Greece and Lukang Longshan Temple in Taiwan. For the Ancient Corinth VR project, CyArk and partner Mid-Pacific Institute, a technology and inquiry-based learning K-12 school located in Honolulu Hawaii, have tested the effects of VR in the classroom. The VR experience transports students to the site as it stands today showcasing the best of Roman and Greek architecture and engineering from the 3rd century. Due to ongoing excavation efforts, the Fountain of Peirene in Ancient Corinth is not currently open to the public. The VR environment allowed students to tour the site, giving them unprecedented access to an ancient architectural marvel that many students will never get the opportunity to visit.
“As a school that combines rigorous academics with innovative technologies, Mid-Pacific offers its students a 3D Immersive Technology Program. Over the past three years, with our partners at CyArk, students have been capturing local historic treasures with LiDAR, making the scans available to the community as open projects for digital preservation. This year, I am thrilled that they can now experience the world's ancient wonders through Virtual Reality, immersing themselves in history and learning about the cultural connections that unite the human race,” said Mid-Pacific President, Paul Turnbull, Ph.D.
In addition, CyArk’s premiere VR experience of the Lukang Longshan temple sponsored by Iron Mountain will transport visitors to the site to explore one of the largest and most well-preserved buildings dating from the Qing dynasty in all of Taiwan. Through the VR environment users can explore the site in its entirety examining its impressive and unique architectural features such as intricate painted murals, carved stone, woodcarvings and spider web ceiling.
CyArk plans to publicly launch the free VR experience on the Realities application this summer. Realities can be downloaded for free on Valve’s Steam platform.
The rate of innovation in VR is staggering. The greatest benefits will be derived from a sharing of knowledge and involve of partnerships across the technology and heritage sectors. CyArk is seeking partners in development, dissemination, and funding to help bring the classroom of the future into fruition.