Fragments of Gio-Ji

VR experience recreating hidden stories behind the temple of Gio

Visitors to historic or cultural sites and museums are bombarded with an overload of information often in the form of difficult to decipher plaques or brochures. With the rapid changes in environment, political situation, and increasing interconnectedness around the world, digital heritage has become a rising field of study, looking at alternative methods to preserve and communicate culture and history.

Designer and Prototyper

Photogrammetry, Virtual Reality, Point cloud processing, 360 Video, Audio Editing

Xin Wen (Computer Science)
The Question
My partner and I explored the ways museum 4.0 technologies can better increase interaction, engagement and information retention among visitors. We chose a small moss temple in Kyoto, Japan as our field site with the question in mind of how can we unearth historical narratives in a way that does not detract from the emotional experience of exploring the temple itself.
The site was reconstructed through point clouds extracted from over 50 video recordings, leading to a dream like environment in which trying to grasp the floating particles leads to them fading into nothingness. As images flicker in and out of reach, visitors wander around the moss temple with a well known local cat as their guide. Audio recordings from the site play on overhead to create an immersive experience with another added sense.

The entrance to the moss temple

Center of the walkway

A side alcove

Temple structure with guide cat

Wandering into certain hotspots in the site (guided by the cat), triggers certain 360 video transitions into another scene or retellings from a section in the Tale of Heiki that features this moss temple. Artifacts were collected from historical woodblock prints depicting the story or Japanese noh theater performances.

Woodblock print artifact

Scene from noh theater performance

Video summary of the experience

A majority of the time spent on this project was in building up the models to recreate the site and researching the back story to collect cultural and historical artifacts. Spending more time in the building of the VR environment could have let us improved transitions between the scenes, based on feedback we received on the abruptness and disorientation that some people experienced. We had tried to mitigate the disorientation associated with being transported to new scenes in VR through the use of oriented 360 videos to “walk” the user to the next scene and place them in the correct spot, but there was a noticeable aesthetic difference. Improvements can be made with better integration and access to higher tech equipment (the 360 camera we used was not the highest quality and LIDAR scanning techniques would have allowed for more detailed generation of point cloud scenes). Overall, our VR experience based in the Gio-Ji temple in Kyoto, Japan allowed visitors to grasp the history of a place while transversing its landscape. We were successful in bringing a little known story behind the temple (that most visitors would have only known about by reading up on it beforehand) to light.