Dec 16, 2008

Tech - India;MS's digitisation of heritage

Call it digitisation of heritage. Zoom in and out, and capture India's diverse heritage using visualisation techniques, to say the least. And with a current research project using multiple forms of media fructifying, perhaps it would be one of the best tamper-proof methods to preserve the history of Indian ancient architectural sites and cultural legacy.

In a collaborative effort, the Centre's Department of Science and Technology and Microsoft Research India (MSR), along with few academic institutions, are working on India Digital Heritage Project.

"This is a scientific effort to push the boundaries of what media delivers today to the end-user,'' says P Anandan, MD, Microsoft Research India. "India has an enormous cultural heritage, and this project explores how this cultural diversity and depth can be presented and preserved using computer science.''

The project seeks to advance research in technologies to present, preserve cultural heritage and monuments of India. It aims to explore the synergistic use of multiple forms of media such as photographs, video and voice to create uniquely compelling 2D and 3D user experiences for the general public. A Programme Advisory and Monitoring Committee (PAMC) has been set up with Ashok Jhunjhunwala of IIT-Madras as chairman.

A pilot project has already been started at an age-old Goddess Andal temple at Srivilliputtur in Tamil Nadu. The research work included a blend of about 6,000 photos and 20 hours of audio.

So what's next? "We have identified two major national, diverse historical sites and would commence work on these two sites with the first pilot getting through,'' Anandan informed. This is part of few more national projects and would be roping in international partners from the Oxford University, France and Belgium.

The India Digital Heritage project consist of three major steps which include data collection or archiving which is a community-based effort and creating the necessary technology to enable the storage and processing of the media; research and creation of tools and technologies to identify and address research issues that arise during the course of the project.

Is there any commercialisation aspect to the research? Indeed there is a business angle. Says Anandan, there is a huge opportunity but difficult to quantify at this juncture. Since a pilot research has been initiated, there is more to grow.

Meanwhile, American Institute of Indian Studies , a consortium of leading US universities, will soon be preparing a database of neglected Islamic monuments in India. AIIS has selected 100 monuments of the Mughal period in Punjab and Haryana.

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