Getting the 'Virtual Generation' into the real world

In the snowy winter of 2015, I traveled to Armenia to work with the amazing kids of TUMO on heritage documentation and the use of 3D capture technologies. If you don't already know about TUMO, you need to check it out. It is a free to all, dependent on consistent attendance, after school program for kids who have interest in high tech applications. There are programs on musical coding by Yale students to animation from Pixar employees. I got to learn first hand why so many people donate their time to this amazing program through a workshop of my own.

For the project, we chose to use Geghard Monestary for our case study. Now remember we held this workshop in Janurary, it was cold, very cold. However looking at the students you never would have been able to tell. They were all eager to explore the site and dive head first into new technology. They arrived busily chatting, but when I first asked, "So who here can speak English?", only a few shy hands rose into the air. Of the fifteen students on site with us, two admitted that they could understand me. By the end of the first day, however, it became abundantly clear that the English language skills of the students were much more advanced than they let on. 

Over the next three days, the students documented the site with over one hundred and twenty LiDAR scans, over one thousand photos, and fifty high detail structured light scans of the intricately carved reliefs. Regardless of language barriers, new technology, tourist crowds, and snow, the students’ enthusiasm and interest never floundered. To top it off, all of the documentation had taken place at temperatures below zero degrees Celsius. To say I was impressed and delighted with this group of students would be a horrible understatement.

Their uncanny ability to absorb information on this new technology continued into the classroom and post processing. In the five days we spent in the classroom, the students learned the basics of each documentation component we consider standard derivatives at CyArk. This includes: pointcloud registration in Autodesk Recap and Faro Scene, point cloud editing and 3D animations in Bently Pointools, architectural drawings in AutoCAD, panorama virtual tour creation in PTGui, 3D modeling in 3Ds Max, video editing in Adobe Premiere, and general data analysis. Again with the incredibly short timeline, everyone took to learning and we had some very impressive results by the end of the week. 

What was really amazing for me was to watch a group of kids who have grown up in the virtual space, who spend 80 percent of their free time using technology, become so enthralled in their historic roots. What I've taken away is that this "disconnected digital generation" is no more disconnected than you or I, but they can bridge the gap between physical and virtual in a way I could never dream of. I'm excited to see the changes world this generation will bring.

Ross Davison