Bringing historical sites to life

IMAGINE diving into the deep Mariana trench in the Pacific Ocean, being a trader living in the 16th century during the Melaka Sultanate or an astronaut exploring the red planet.

Through head-mounted virtual reality (VR) devices such as Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, PlayStation VR or Samsung Gear VR, this technology provides an immersive and interactive opportunity for those who wish to explore it.

Your eyes are not the only sensory organ involved in the VR experience. In fact, it takes your whole body into the vivid representation of the VR which is called the virtual environment.

Your brain is stimulated by the virtual environment that invokes your body’s sensory organs, making the experience as real as possible.

Although VR was initially viewed as a game-changer for gaming industries, Multimedia University (MMU) lecturers Siti Noraishah Musa and Tan Gek Siang say it has huge potential in boosting the tourism sector.

Heritage preservation

Siti Noraishah used VR to bring to life 19 historical buildings throughout peninsular Malaysia under the “e-Warisan Senibina” programme. She worked on this project with a team of 23 researchers from various expertise led by MMU president Professor Datuk Dr Ahmad Rafi Mohamed Eshaq.

The buildings were selected based on their cultural links and historical value as Unesco World Heritage sites.

To showcase the traditional houses and places of worship in a virtual environment, plenty of detailing work was done to make the iconic buildings as realistic as possible.

“We made an extensive observation of the buildings which included conducting comprehensive studies of their history and taking photographs of the sites.

“Some of the buildings we put into our virtual environment do not exist anymore so we referred to Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s Centre for the Study of Built Environment in the Malay World for its original blueprints,” she said.

Noraishah said the main motivation behind the usage of VR technology was to increase awareness and preserve our heritage.

The funding for the project came via the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry under MMUcreativista Sdn Bhd (MMUCV) and details of the “e-Warisan Senibina” were chronicled in a book titled The e-Warisan Senibina Virtual Heritage.

Swipe for virtual guide

Walking around tourist hotspots in Melaka is now made easier with interactive information accessible with a touch of your finger on smart devices.

Funded by MMU’s internal research grant, Tan developed a mixed reality programme that combined the use of VR and its cousin, Augmented Reality (AR) into his project called the iMelaka 360 Project which comprised two prototypes named iMelaka 360 VR website and iMelaka 360 AR app.

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