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Team led by Prof. Takehiko Nagakura digitally documents Machu Picchu using virtual and augmented reality

What if we could immerse ourselves in this UNESCO World Heritage Site through virtual reality or use augmented reality to interact with its 3-D site map?

"In order to digitally document and develop the foundations for future research, a laboratory team from the MIT Department of Architecture, led by Professor Takehiko Nagakura and PhD student Paloma Gonzales, has been working on the MISTI Global Seed Fund Machu Picchu Design Heritage project since 2016.

The team, the Architecture Representation and Computation Group, has led the first extensive expedition to digitally document Machu Picchu, using the latest generation of instruments and techniques to explore the site’s architectural and urban importance  and develop a 3-D site map using virtual reality and augmented reality. The Architecture Representation and Computation Group has an important record of working with digital capturing technologies on World Heritage Sites in Italy, China, Singapore, and Japan.

"We believe that documentation through computational techniques for the digitalization of architectural monuments is key to the preservation of the cultural heritage of humanity," Nagakura says. “But it is just a simple idea for old practice. From Renaissance time, architects have been going to building sites, and drawing them up to study them. We are just replacing tape measures and Mylar sheets with scanning tools and VR headsets.”

For the project in Peru, the team visited the archaeological complex on two occasions for several weeks in mid-2017 and early 2018. At the site, more than 9,000 images were collected through panoramic cameras, photogrammetric scanning tools, and drones. Gonzales says the working hours were “intense.”

“We had to reach the archaeological monument before the arrival of the tourists and stay after the closure of the monument," she says. “The great commitment and joint work of the MIT team and the San Antonio Abad del Cusco University, supported by the Decentralized Directorate of Culture of Cusco, made the work fruitful and rewarding.”

Based on the photogrammetric data they sampled, the team developed 3-D models and are working on creating virtual reality experiences that would allow people to immerse themselves in Machu Picchu from anywhere on the planet. The same 3-D models are also being deployed to make a new interactive map of Machu Picchu that superimposes the photographic 3-D view of the site through augmented reality."

 

Read the full story by Eduardo Rivera and Lily Keyes, MISTI, via MIT News
August 28, 2018