“A more mercifully structured hackathon,” is how Greg Lord, Hamilton’s Digital Humanities Initiative lead designer, software engineer and institute manager described this week's Immersive Technology Summer Institute. An outgrowth of the Digital Humanities Initiative (DHi), this joint venture brought together a collaborative team of technologists, faculty, and students to explore 3D and virtual applications in a week-long, working session.
Participants included individuals from Hamilton, Gettysburg College, and Colgate University and, remotely, Occidental College. Planning was done by individuals from all four institutions. Adam Silcott, a virtual reality (VR) data visualization developer from Navteca, also served as a guest instructor and technical advisor to the teams.
Throughout the week, members presented and discussed various technology and project development workflow topics and then broke out into smaller groups for project development in which Lord and Silcott served as technical advisors/liaisons, addressing feasibility issues. Using different tools but following the same workflow allowed the colleges to evaluate their tools and strategies. Presentation topics included photogrammetry technologies, workflows, 3D modeling, immersive technology programming, virtual reality implementation, and 360 Video.
These projects are intended to be continued into longer-term development by each institution, with this week as a focused development time to either begin their development or to focus on the development of particular immersive technologies. Team presentations were made at the end of the week between the colleges but will continue into the fall.
The week's four projects included:
- Hamilton College: Experiencing Empathy is a project that will translate real-life experiences into a first-person VR narrative from the perspective of a student in New Orleans’ post-Katrina, charter school system as the student travels through various venues. This project is directed by DHi Director Janet Simons, Director of Opportunity Programs Phyllis Breland, and Associate Professor of Anthropology Chaise Ladousa.
- Hamilton College: a biology research project led by Assistant Professor of Biology Natalie Nannas to create molecular structures that students can then explore in a 3D, VR environment
- Gettysburg College: a project to recreate an early modern Spanish public playhouse (corral de comedias) in a VR experience
- Colgate University: a project to produce historical models of campus-based on campus surveys. Building upon the topographical maps of campus rendered in 3D, this pilot project will focus on teaching the core skills necessary to construct an individual building in detail.
Examples of previous Hamilton projects that have involved students in developing immersive technologies include:
- Sacred Centers in India: the creation of artifacts from Hindu and Buddhist temples in the Bodhgaya region of India.
- Comparative Japanese Film Archive: the recreation of the Musashino-kan Theater in Tokyo, as a means of creating a virtual film screening and Benshi narration performance in a former Japanese theater, based on blueprints and historical photographs of the space.