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Expanding the Research and Innovation Capacity in Cultural Heritage Virtual Reality Applications

Modern technological advances allow for new and exciting ways to preserve cultural heritage. The eHERITAGE project has contributed to the field by enhancing research and innovation capacity in virtual heritage at the Transilvania University of Brasov (UTBv).

First of the EU-funded project’s three main objectives was to increase scope and competitive research. The second focused on training and mobility of researchers, and the third on continuously extending research and innovation capacity. The project delivered in all three areas.

“eHERITAGE managed to influence social, economic and cultural environments at national and international levels,” notes Dr Mihai Duguleană, project coordinator. Beyond participation in and organisation of numerous events, “one of the most important actions we took was to collaborate with local, national and international entities related to the field of study.” This led to new strategic partnerships with other research or academic organisations.

Mobility, integration and outreach

Initially, activities focused on raising UTBv staff know-how. “We took time to form the right research teams, to find the accessible study niches and to draft a good path for the following 2 years of the project,” Dr Duguleană explains. Staff from all three partner institutes participated in staff exchanges, numbering over 200 days spent abroad. This is greatly reflected in dissemination activities, which include over 40 research papers in conference proceedings and high-impact factor journals.

Second-year tasks centred on preparation of research initiatives and integration in EU centres of excellence. After events kick-starting UTBv outreach with an 'Advanced Study Institute' workshops event and the brokerage event, eHERITAGE produced project proposals and published mature research results. It also established membership in several networks of excellence and relevant associations and organisations.

The project’s final year, appropriately coinciding with the European Year of Cultural Heritage, was the most intense. “Being so closely related to the subject of our project, we were lucky to be invited at events, seminars, expositions and other cultural manifestations,” the coordinator reports. During this time, eHERITAGE hosted the '1st International Conference on VR Technologies in Cultural Heritage' (VRTCH’18) and submitted applications for competitions such as the Europa Nostra Award.

New scenarios for the future of cultural heritage

Project activities provided the means for enhancing staff research and dissemination skills. Achievements in this area mark the project’s main impact, evidenced through higher research efficiency, creativity and productivity, as well as acceleration of innovation in research. Efforts also succeeded in improving collaboration between researchers.

By creating innovative virtual reality (VR) applications for cultural heritage sites, eHERITAGE has contributed to the spread of knowledge in the fields of history, education, technology and arts. The project showcased its VR systems at events in Belgium, Italy, Romania and China. Trade shows and expositions gave thousands of people the opportunity to test equipment running virtual heritage scenarios.

“More than 20 000 people have discovered our work in cultural heritage,” Dr Duguleană estimates. He lists a bow simulator, holographic stand and digital VR book as the most appreciated eHERITAGE products. All project-developed equipment is on display at the UTBv R&D institute, and 3D models can be downloaded from the project’s repository.

Opportunities afforded by technological advancements need to be reflected in new cultural policies. “That is a part of what the members of the eHERITAGE consortium want to do in their future activities,” he concludes.

Reference source : Expanding the Research and Innovation Capacity in Cultural Heritage Virtual Reality Applications

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