Curating in the virtual museum

Visitors to the Krems Art Mile can immerse themselves in virtual reality and plan their own exhibitions. 

Virtual reality. Researchers at IMC FH Krems are working on innovative methods for creating interactive virtual spaces. The technology developed in the Scan 2 VR project will initially be used in the Kunstmeile Krems.

The entertainment industry, medical technology, training of specialists or spatial planning – virtual reality is already being used in a wide variety of areas. In the future, much more should be possible. The IMC University of Applied Sciences Krems is also researching further development, for example in the Scan 2 VR project under the direction of Michael Reiner. Partner of the project is the Kunstmeile Krems.

This is where the developed technologies will be used first: Based on detailed scans of rooms and objects, a virtual museum will be created. “Curators can use it to plan exhibitions in the virtual world,” explains Reiner. “They can see where objects are best shown to advantage, how lighting systems change the effect of the room or how a room with different numbers of visitors functions”. To do this, exhibition rooms are first precisely recorded and measured with the help of a laser scanner, and objects and people are photographed from different angles with SLR cameras.

Special software then converts the data obtained into three-dimensional rooms and objects. Curators enter the virtual world thus created through VR glasses. There they can, for example, place, move or rotate objects. They can hang lamps, align lighting spots or simulate streams of visitors.

Optimally reduced

In its fundamentals, this technology is nothing new. Three-dimensional spaces, which are produced for different purposes, already exist. However, Reiner and his team are working on optimising the software for data processing. A detailed scan produces a huge amount of data from survey points and photos, explains the project manager. This data has to be scaled down in the best possible way: “On the one hand, it should still look good in the virtual world, but on the other hand it should not overload the computer or perhaps even run on VR glasses that don’t need a computer.”

That is the big challenge

Up to now, virtual rooms have also been mostly systems made for special tasks, offering only limited possibilities for use. The researchers from Krems, on the other hand, are designing a modular construction kit system of virtual worlds that users can adapt individually and expand as needed.

Future areas of application are not limited to museums alone, of course. From hospitals and supermarkets to the Austrian Federal Railways: just like exhibition rooms, operating theatres, shops or locomotives can be digitised in this way. Corresponding follow-up projects are already being planned.

First, however, the Scan 2 VR project will be given a place in the Krems art mile. There, visitors will be able to immerse themselves in virtual reality and plan their own exhibitions. Although the work has been somewhat delayed by the Corona crisis, Reiner is confident that he will be able to present the station in autumn at the latest. “Feedback from visitors is extremely important,” he emphasizes. This feedback is to be incorporated by the end of the project at the end of the year.