JOURNEY INTO ALKEBULAN
THE FIRST PHOTOREALISTIC METAVERSETTE OF AN AFRICAN HERITAGE SITE
One of the needs, interests and concerns identified through discussions with the community leaders was the need to preserve the cultural heritage of the communities.
Alkabulan was created as a metaversette to preserve the rich cultural heritage of Africa.
The Komjekejeke Heritage Site was converted into a photorealistic digital model. This forms the basis of the experience and the new era of metaverses and 3D spaces that are becoming accessible to anyone anywhere in the world.
We recreate the experience of being on-site, being immersed in the culture, the vivid colours in the artwork, the surrounding nature and be able to allow someone anywhere in the world to experience it. By creating a digital version of a site we freeze that experience in time and preserve it in the endless world of the digital age.
The process started out by using two forms of tech – photos and LiDAR. Our top of the range LiDAR or light detection and ranging systems emit pulsing laser beams at 2million points per second in 360 degrees which creates an ultra-detail digital point cloud (or collection of dots) representing the space around the laser. We set up scanning points all around the site to form a gap-free digital reconstruction with precise detail. On the photo side, we use a specialist form of close range and far range photogrammetry. This is a process of reconstructing the 3D depth from photographs and works on the same principle as the human eyes. Two eyes create what we call parallax and allows the brain to work out the depth of an object and figure out distances. This same principle, applied to buildings and objects, allows us to reconstruct them from static images. We carried out three forms of photogrammetric digitisation for this specific project.
Aerial, interior and object-based. For the aerial mapping, we used the M300 from DJI with the P1 camera system. The drone is flown in a predefined grid pattern around the site to create a digital replica of the topography and landscape surrounding the buildings, We follow this up with a point of interest flight around structures and close detail to pick up the texture of roofs and top of walls where the ground bases images cannot see. The buildings are then photographed with a high-end full-frame mirrorless camera team, both inside and outside to capture as much high-resolution texture of the paint, materials, and visual features. Combining the LiDAR and images together we build a detailed digital version of the buildings.
The third form of data capture is what is known as close-range precision photogrammetry. For this, we use a turntable studio setup with specialised lighting and high-end lenses. We photograph individual objects in 360 degrees and use those images to build a 3D version of them. This is the workflow for the NFT where we are focusing on creating high-resolution 3D replicas of objects in the real world. There is no better way to preserve history and store the value of these art pieces. Once we have the 3D models created, that’s where the fun starts. Having a 3D replica of reality that we can move around on the computer opens endless doors for the experience we want to create.
It is like building a computer game or writing your own movie script, but instead of working with abstract 3D models that look cartoonish or designed by an artist, we get to work with real-world objects which means we can capture the experience of being in that space and experience the rich culture of the area and the people. The 3D environment and the way you interact with it is about creating an unforgettable experience and talking to the emotions of the visitors to the space. The beauty of digital worlds is that you can do things that go beyond nature, you can fly, walk around, jump inside paintings or the art itself, change the mood, the colours, the scenery and also have the ability to see others around you and interact with them.
By creating these new digital spaces of heritage sites, museums and galleries we can link the space to the object in them which will become the NFTs. To talk about virtual worlds seems like it is something in the far away future but they are already here what many are calling the new era of the internet. Think of going into a museum and purchasing a statue as an NFT. You can take that statue and display it in your virtual house or in a virtual conference room while doing a virtual Zoom meeting. To see how real and powerful these virtual spaces are becoming look no further than Meta’s version of the social metaverse they are working on or VISA buying a pixelated 3D character call the Crypto Punk. The difference here is that we are preserving our heritage and transforming the art and culture into a format that can be enjoyed forever from anywhere in the world.