“VALUE”, THE RESEARCH PROJECT FUNDED BY THE SICILY REGION TO DEVELOP A NEW DIMENSION OF CULTURE WITH MIXED REALITY

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The project, born within the PO FESR 2014/2020 program – Action 1.1.5. – “Support for the technological advancement of companies through the financing of pilot lines and early validation actions of products and large-scale demonstrations” aims to revolutionize the experience of visiting museum spaces, through frontier hardware and software technologies . In the field of latest generation viewers, interactivity between real and digital dimensions, artificial intelligence and 3D experience.

It was officially launched on January 15, it did not stop even during the Covid 19 emergency and is now moving towards the development of a first prototype. This is the VALUE project, a frontier challenge that unites centers of excellence on research for innovative technologies and companies with strong skills in digital development and enhancement of cultural heritage.

VALUE is based on a pioneering challenge, which arises from the desire to go beyond augmented reality and virtual reality, technologies that are solid and mature today, combining them in an experience in which virtual objects are superimposed on the surrounding reality and are “anchored” to it. , so that the user can interact with it, creating a more dynamic experience than ever. Thanks, in fact, to MIXED REALITY (also called Mixed Reality), it is possible to interact with three-dimensional objects, shown on special latest generation viewers, while allowing the user to never lose contact with the real environment that surrounds him.

It is therefore a precious opportunity to have places and cultural assets that are not always fully understandable by everyone speak loudly, allowing them to tell their own story. The project aims to create an innovative system, capable of processing in real time the information obtained through the video camera of wearable viewers, analyzing with a precision never before obtained the details of objects and architectures, adding 3D contents and characters, tracing and recording the behavior of visitors to museums and historical sites in an extremely precise manner.

In terms of hardware technologies, VALUE uses the most innovative devices on the market, including Microsoft Hololens II and various types of glasses for augmented reality, which are also able to interact with smartphones and tablets. A mix of different and complementary solutions, to create and compare different immersive visiting experiences within Sicilian cultural sites.

The VALUE system also uses a specific algorithm to track users’ visiting behaviors, thus helping them on their journey, indicating the different stages to follow and, therefore, allowing them to explore the site in the best conditions and on the basis of their preferences. Furthermore, this same information will help the institution to improve the visit experience from time to time, thanks to the analysis of the reactions and behavior of users. The algorithm not only memorizes which points have aroused the most interest than others, but is also able to profile visitors by reporting their preferences, with the possibility of offering, for example, proposals for the purchase of souvenirs related to favorite objects during the visit , as well as a collection of images of the most popular objects.

Furthermore, other experiments, which will make use of different augmented reality technologies, are being defined in important cultural sites, Sicilian and otherwise. The project aims to create value for both tourists and cultural institutions, it sees the commitment and synergy between different realities that, by combining specific know-how, have faced the VALUE bet.

The Catania-based company Xenia Gestione Documentale, leader of the partner group, specializes in the provision of customized advanced services in the area of ​​Document Management and has developed innovative solutions through research projects in the field of cultural heritage. In the VALUE project he collaborated in the analysis and selection of ICT technologies necessary for development and will deal with the integration of the system.

Capitale Cultura Group – an international reality also based in Catania, which since 2013 has been supporting cultural and tourist organizations and businesses – provides its skills in the Augmented Reality sector, takes care of the market analysis and coordinates the aspects relating to the creation of content , marketing and project communication. With Capitale Cultura also Art-Glass, the group’s company specializing in augmented reality for cultural sites which, with its expert team, collaborates in the conception and creation of storytelling.

CUTGANA, the multidisciplinary research center of the University of Catania, has always promoted, coordinated and implemented, also in collaboration with the university departments and with other national and international scientific institutions and public and private bodies, research and studies in matters of protection, management and enhancement of environmental resources and natural and agricultural ecosystems. Within the project, it has a key scientific role for the study, characterization and selection of the most appropriate hardware and algorithmic technologies in the state of the art, in order to define the starting point for the design and development of the technological components. It also deals with establishing the methods of data acquisition and labeling and defining the methods for evaluating the performance of the algorithms.

ICAR, Institute of Computing and High Performance Networks, is an Institute of the National Research Council (CNR), which has always had as its mission the development of research, technology transfer and advanced training in the area of ​​intelligent systems with complex functionality and high performance systems, collaborates, as part of the project, in addition to the acquisition of data and their labeling, to the analysis and selection of ICT technologies, in particular those concerning verbal interaction and their integration with other tools and platforms.

Finally, IMC Service, a company that since 1985 has been dealing with inspection, maintenance and consulting services, integrated hi-tech solutions for industrial maintenance and environmental monitoring, in the design field deals with the identification of the hardware devices that will make up the wearable system. , following a careful analysis of the technologies available on the market, identifying the necessary additions and defining the levels of performance measurement.

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