Rajasthan turns to 3D design technologies to preserve heritage

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New Delhi | Updated: June 9, 2017 6:10:54 PM

India is one of the richest countries when it comes to cultural heritage sites. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has identified 27 cultural sites and structures as World Heritage Sites.

The Rajasthan government has taken a lead to preserve monuments using the most advanced design technology from Autodesk, the US-based 3D design technology firm.

India is one of the richest countries when it comes to cultural heritage sites. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has identified 27 cultural sites and structures as World Heritage Sites. However, many of the country’s historical buildings and monuments are in a state of neglect. Now digital technology is lending a helping hand to preserve this heritage for posterity, besides giving a significant boost to tourism. The Rajasthan government has taken a lead to preserve monuments using the most advanced design technology from Autodesk, the US-based 3D design technology firm. Backed by the department of information technology and communication, the state government has embarked on this first-of-its-kind project to scan and digitise the existing heritage structures in the state.

“This is the world’s first such project in terms of the scale and magnitude,” said Tatjana Dzambazova, technology whisperer, senior product manager– Autodesk.

So far, this project has completed true scale as-built 3D models for Albert Hall Museum, Jantar Mantar, Hawa Mahal, Udaipur City Palace, Jaipur City Palace, Albert Palace, seven gates of the walled city in Jaipur. “At present, Amer Fort and Kumbhalgarh Fort are being scanned,” said Dzambazova, who is the global lead at Autodesk for all projects related to building digitisation, preservation and restoration.

According to Autodesk officials, the project is part of the state government’s aim to scan all existing buildings and infrastructure and create a 3D digital model of the state.

“Now that we have the architectural 3D models and 3D walk-through videos, it will be easy for us to retain the real feel of the city. For example, facades coming up around the heritage monuments can be modelled in line with them, so as to be in sync with the old world charm,” said YK Jain, joint director, department of IT & communication, government of Rajasthan.

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The successful digitisation of the state architecture can work in tandem with other initiatives such as Rajdhaara, to make the state smart and enable better governance. Rajdhaara is a special initiative of the state government to establish an effective and integrated GIS infrastructure of the desert state to enable good governance, sustainable development and citizen empowerment and to maintain a state-wide standardised GIS asset database.

Restoring the glory

The preservation of heritage assets often involves a unique set of challenges, as one of the most crucial facets of the process is to keep the cultural heritage intact. Several projects have been undertaken across the globe to preserve the culture and heritage. For instance, 3D models of the Bamiyan Buddhas (that were destroyed by Taliban) have been generated from crowd-sourced photos, using Autodesk technology. Autodesk officials informed that this was a project that was undertaken to understand the possibilities of crowd-sourced digitisation.

Similarly, Smithsonian (a group of museums and research centres administered by the US government) has used 3D scanning and image based modeling technology of Autodesk to digitally record and study some museum collections, scientific specimens, and research sites. It uses Autodesk technology to put the entire collection online and make it available worldwide on the Smithsonian Explorer which Autodesk built for them using Project Play technology. The exhibit on Apollo 11 was digitised entirely using Autodesk technologies like ReCap and ReMake.

Digital India at its best

For Rajasthan, home to majestic forts and royal palaces, this is a first-of-its-kind initiative to recreate heritage structures, and the acquisition of all possible data was the first step which contributed to fundamental modelling for documentation. The project will play an important part in fulfilling the dream of creating a 3D city.

The project consists of three phases: The first phase involves creating a digital 3D model of historical and archaeological sites. The project team uses a combination of laser terrestrial scanning and aerial photogrammetry capture using drones to scan the existing significant historical structures. The data is then processed in point clouds and 3D modes using the photogrammetry and laser scanning technology in Autodesk ReCap 360. These models are then combined with geographic information system (GIS) visuals using Autodesk technology, to create a complete 3D digital model of the structure.

In phase two, the team transfers the point clouds into Autodesk Revit to build a detailed Building Information Model (BIM), which can be used for maintenance and future restoration projects. In the last phase, ancient artwork and sculptures, as well as architectural features are captured with high-resolution digital cameras and turned into 3D models and point clouds using Autodesk ReCap 360 and Autodesk ReMake. The 3D models of the artefacts will be used in virtual exhibitions, for research and conservation purposes, and can also be 3D printed to make replicates should the need arise.

Using advanced computer graphics software (3ds Max and Maya), 3D walkthrough videos of the scanned monuments have been created and uploaded on the website of Rajasthan Tourism that can give tourists a 3D experience. Going forward, the team plans to create AR/VR and interactive multimedia experiences that will run in browser, mobile and VR. Without doubt, the 3D walk-through videos will help tourists have a closer look at the Rajasthan of yore with just a click.

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