School of Animation & Visual Effects (ANM) alumnus Valerio Paolucci returned to campus this past semester to chat with students about internship opportunities at CyArk and showcase its two latest interactive media projects.
Paolucci is a 3-D artist at CyArk, short for Cyber Archive, a non-profit organization that takes and stores laser and photographical data of historical and cultural sites for conservation efforts. The company stores the images and data in large databases for later use in physical and digital conservation efforts, should the site be damaged or destroyed by natural disaster, human causes or the passage of time.
“Our mission is to capture, record and share the world heritage. We travel. We go into the field. We spend a few days or weeks on the site. We collect LIDAR data (which is laser scanning data). It’s accurate [to] the millimeter,” said Paolucci. “It means super accurate fine detail models. We’re creating drawings for conservation. Recently we created the VR component so people can experience the sites, ideally people who don’t have the opportunity to travel to the site. Using a software that combines our data types we can create a lot of cool content.”
The two projects that Paolucci brought for demonstration were an Oculus Rift VR experience of Mount Rushmore and a Google Arts & Culture partnered desktop interactive experience of a series of ancient temples in the Bagan Valley of Myanmar. Both experiences allowed the viewer to move through the spaces simulating the experience of walking through the cultural sites.
CyArk captured the Bagan Valley data in 2016 right before a series of large earthquakes devastated the region. CyArk shared the data with the organization in charge of the restoration, allowing for an accuracy in restoration not previously possible.
“Digital heritage has been growing a lot, especially attached to VR. The entire world of museums is interested in using technology to make their collections available. There is a lot that can be explored in this field,” the 3-D artist said. “Part of the reason artists go to the animation or game industry is because they know very little about digital heritage. I want people to connect with the mission a little bit and think outside the box. This isn’t something that I heard about before I started working there. My role at CyArk is as a 3-D artist and I want to see students use their skills outside of traditional industry.”
Scott Tseng, a 3-D animation M.F.A. student, expressed intrigue at the possibility of VR to exist outside of its relegation as a gaming platform. “I didn’t know that they were doing educational stuff like this,” Tseng said. “I think it can work for more people, as well, especially children. Kids might really like it if they can run through all the buildings.”
ANM Technology Officer & Computer Animation Production Coordinator Rob Gibson, who also attended the demonstration, remarked on the advancement and potential future uses for the technology.
“When you get to hold the controller, it’s like you’re present. There’s a location feeling that happens not like you’re looking at a picture or reading a book. Also, the databases they’re making are quite remarkable, large databases of geometry. You’re able to navigate the space virtually because of that. There becomes this quite interesting ‘you can’t tell it’s not real thing’ happening,” he said. “I think it also opens another avenue for students. Everybody wants to work at Pixar. There’s money in this and the experience of managing those databases, or doing unity programming or giving the user control over the experience. Students should open up and seek out these other opportunities.”
Featured photo: CyArk 3-D artist and ANM graduate Valerio Paolucci demos a VR experience during his recent visit to campus. Photo by Bob Toy.