The Jakarta Post
Anantarupa Studios introduced last week the nation's first virtual reality museum, aiming bring to Indonesians parts of Indonesia's ancient heritage that have been scattered to museums throughout the world.
The museum, which uses Oculus Rift virtual reality technology recently purchased by Facebook, will open to the public until May 18 during the Museum Week event at the Senayan City mall in Senayan, South Jakarta.
After the event ends, the collection will have a permanent home at Gallery Indonesia in the Grand Indonesia shopping center in Sudirman, Central Jakarta, starting mid-June.
The museum currently features 10 ancient statues from the era of the Majapahit, an ancient archipelagic empire which ruled parts of present day Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Timor Leste.
The original pieces are located in various museums all over the world.
The virtual Adityawarman statue on display at the exhibition, for example, was modeled after the original, which currently resides at the Tropen Museum in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
There are also models of a Dwarapala statue from the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, the US; and a Sri Rajadevi Maharajasa statue from the Victoria and Albert Museum in England.
Anantarupa uses the Oculus Rift 3D goggles as a medium to take visitors into the realm of virtual reality.
The goggles use a seven-inch LCD display, visible via dual lenses that are positioned over the eyes. This provides stereoscopic 3D vision for users, who can freely move their heads from side to side, making the experience as close to real life as possible.
Using the goggles, users can start their visit by looking at the Majapahit sun emblem at the center of the display. After it finishes spinning, users can access see the historical details of each statue, such as the year it was made or the philosophy behind its creation - all simply by glancing at the statue.
To provide an immersive experience, the virtual museum also provides audio commentary to explain the historical background of each statue when a user looks at it.
There are, however, still some real life elements missing.
For example, the goggles cannot detect when users move their heads forward to look at the statue up close. Nor could users look at the statues from all angles.
Anantarupa managing director Diana Paskarina attributed some of the glitches to the accelerated digitization process, which took one month, as opposed to the three months that are typically required.
'We were invited to participate in the Museum Week event, so we decided to complete the 3D modeling sooner than our original schedule, which was to be the end of this year,' Diana said.
Gaining direct access to the statues was also tough.
'The most challenging part of creating the virtual museum was the research, because we often could not visit the museums that were located abroad to see how the statues look in real life,' Diana said.
To cope with the challenge of digitizing remote statues, Diana said that they relied on the Internet for photographs to make 3D models. 'Sometimes, we can only see the front and the side parts of the statues. Therefore, as you can see, some statues are incomplete, especially in the back.'
Diana said users could expect more and better visualizations in the future.
'We plan to add 58 statues in total from the Majapahit era,' she said, adding that she hoped the project would emphasize museums as windows to the past and attract sponsors to finance expansion.
'We're using Oculus technology to lure more people to become interested in museums,' Diana said. 'By using virtual reality and technological interactivity, we hope people can see museums from a different perspective and eventually lure them to visit museums in real life as well.'