Sep 5, 2023
The metaverse doesn’t refer to any specific technology; it is rather a seismic shift in how we interact and engage with technology. The 3D internet or metaverse is a virtual spatial environment where individuals can meet, interact, and engage in various activities. The potential use cases of this digital environment are rapidly broadening, gaining greater attention in the arts and cultural space.
The Middle East and North Africa’s (MENA’s) cultural heritage holds immense significance. The region is home to some of the world's oldest civilizations, including the Pharaohs of Egypt and the Mesopotamian empires. MENA has a unique opportunity to enhance the preservation of this rich cultural heritage using the metaverse. The region is already a forerunner in embracing the metaverse with a rising number of metaverse-based projects and a growing interest in using immersive tools across industries. This blog dives into the metaverse's potential to preserve and showcase this rich history of the MENA region through captivating and accessible formats. As the digital realm continues to evolve, there's an opportunity to use the 3D internet to immortalize the stories, traditions, and landmarks of the MENA region, ensuring they are passed down to future generations interactively and engagingly.
The metaverse as a gateway to the past
The metaverse can serve as a repository of human history, allowing users to step back in time and experience historical moments, sites, and artifacts as they were in the past. Imagine donning a virtual reality (VR) headset and finding yourself in the heart of ancient Carthage in Tunisia. The sounds of the marketplace, the architecture of the buildings, the resident’s attire – everything is designed with photorealistic graphics to transport you back in time. You can attend lectures in the ancient Library of Alexandria in Egypt, walk the streets of Roman-era Jerusalem, or even participate in traditional ceremonies of the Berber tribes of North Africa. The immersion is not just visual; with advancements in haptic technology, users can feel the texture of ancient artifacts or the warmth of the desert sun on their skin.
Here are a few ways the metaverse allows us to experience history:
Recreating historical moments: Imagine witnessing the construction of the Pyramids or the battles of ancient empires. The 3D internet can recreate these moments in vivid detail. Through AI-driven simulations, users can observe and interact with historical events, gaining a deeper understanding of the context and significance of each moment. For instance, the Timelooper app allows individuals to immerse themselves in historical moments from a first-person perspective through VR. The app recreates moments like George Washington’s inauguration ceremony and the John Lennon Memorial in 1980 in a 360-degree virtual experience.
Virtual replication of historical sites: Many historical sites have suffered damage over time, be it due to natural disasters, wars, or the passage of time. The metaverse offers a solution by allowing for the digital preservation of these sites. For instance, CyArk leverages virtual reality to create new and engaging cultural heritage experiences. The company recreated the Temple of Eshmun in Lebanon through a digital 3D, 360-degree visualization for virtual visitors to experience. Another great example is Google’s introduction of a virtual tour of Petra and over 30 historical sites in Jordan using Google Street View. To make the experience more immersive, they employed 360º mapping and aerial imagery and combined millions of photos to recreate Petra's iconic panoramas. Accompanied by audio narration, interactive hotspots, and sound effects, users can virtually traverse the pathway of Al Siq to Petra's renowned Treasury, explore its intricate carved facade, and journey past its carved theater to the towering Monastery.
Digital artifacts: Invaluable physical artifacts are often kept in museums and are inaccessible to many. In the metaverse, replicas of these artifacts can be created, allowing users to examine them up close and interact without damaging the original piece. This digital representation of valuable antiques democratizes access and provides a learning resource for users worldwide.
Education and awareness through immersive experiences
The metaverse has emerged as a potential tool and medium to convey the rich history of the MENA region to students, residents, and tourists by immersing them in engaging virtual environments.
Engaging with historical events
The metaverse allows students to read about historical events and experience them firsthand. Students, through avatars, can actively participate in historical events, assuming the roles of historical figures and interacting with the environment. For instance, students could learn about the significance of the Battle of Karbala by immersing themselves in a virtual representation of the event. This teaching methodology would allow students to foster a deeper understanding and empathy, transforming historical education into a more engaging and personal experience.
Learning through virtual museums and exhibitions
Virtual museums can be created within the 3D internet, showcasing artifacts, art, and historical documents from the MENA region. These museums can offer interactive exhibits, where students and other visitors can virtually touch, explore, and even enter historical artifacts, like stepping inside a Pharaoh's tomb or exploring the interiors of ancient structures. For instance, the Dalloul Art Foundation in Beirut, known as the largest archive of Arab art, launched a comprehensive digital platform amidst the coronavirus outbreak. This platform displays over 3,000 art pieces, artist biographies, past exhibitions, and exclusive video content for virtual visitors to interact with. They have also stated intentions of introducing a virtual reality walk-through feature in the future.
Narrating cultural evolution
With its rich tapestry of history, culture, and civilizations, the MENA region has the perfect opportunity to leverage the metaverse to narrate these tales in an immersive, interactive, and engaging manner. Here are some ways the 3D internet can be used for digital storytelling of historical narratives and cultural evolution:
Audio-guided virtual tours: Offering virtual tours of 3D spaces of historical sites or cultural venues can immerse visitors, particularly by integrating them with audio guides and informative resources to grasp the story better.
Interactive virtual scenarios: Users can become active participants in historical events instead of passive observers through virtual experiences in digital spatial environments. Metaverse experiences enhanced by technologies like real-time animation through facial tracking, computer-generated graphics, and motion capture allow individuals to immerse themselves into 3D virtual environments as avatars. A great example of a digital storytelling experience could be a metaverse adaptation of the Silk Road, connecting East and West, where participants would don virtual reality headsets or use digital devices to embark on an immersive exploration through the route. They could navigate different route segments, experience their culture, view artifacts, and interact with digital avatars representing historical figures. This metaverse experience would offer global accessibility, enabling users to uniquely engage with history, cultures, and fellow explorers.
Storytelling through augmented reality (AR): Individuals can seamlessly transition from natural to virtual environments with AR, creating virtual graphic overlays in real-world venues. The story of historic sites or artifacts in a museum can be told by offering AR features through a smartphone or head-mounted display for individuals to garner more information and a deeper historical context of the elements.
Accuracy and authenticity
Creating authentic and accurate virtual representations of historical artifacts and sites comes with its challenges. Here are a few:
Interpretation vs. reality: Digital graphics of ancient and historic sites and landmarks are often based on interpretations of historical data. Presenting a biased or inaccurate view can be a risk, especially if the creators take artistic liberties.
Decay and incomplete data: Many historic artifacts and sites have decayed, and representing them in their original glory based on partial data can lead to inaccuracies.
Cultural sensitivity: Some artifacts and sites have great religious or cultural significance. Misrepresentation can offend or mislead people about the beliefs and practices of specific communities.
With its immersive capabilities, the metaverse offers a revolutionary platform for preserving and showcasing the MENA region's rich cultural heritage. By merging historical treasures with digital artistry, it bridges the past and the present, allowing users to experience history firsthand. The possibilities are vast, from virtual reenactments of significant events to interactive museums. However, the success of these endeavors hinges on collaboration, ensuring authenticity and respect for cultural nuances. As we stand on the cusp of this digital evolution, the 3D internet promises a future where history is not just read but lived, ensuring the stories of the MENA region continue to inspire generations to come.
Are you an organization or government body looking to enhance cultural preservation through digitalization? We can help you build and scale engaging and immersive projects in the metaverse. Get in touch with us!
Sep 5, 2023
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