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ASI taps IIT Jodhpur to build AR game, museum

ASI taps IIT Jodhpur to build AR game, museum
23 Jun, 2022

The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Jodhpur, is working with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to create augmented reality (AR) platforms for the government agency. The platforms will be built by iHub Drishti, the institute’s Technology Innovation Hub (TIH).

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In an interview, Amit Bhardwaj, assistant professor at IIT Jodhpur’s department of electrical engineering, told Mint that the institute is working on two AR-based projects for ASI. 

“The ASI wants us to build a digital museum for them by using AR and virtual reality (VR). Their AR/VR services that we are building will also include a game-based platform, and ASI wants to use this to attract younger generations’ interest in archaeology,” Bhardwaj said.

ASI is a government agency under the Ministry of Culture that undertakes archaeological research and expeditions, and is also responsible for preservation of cultural sites and museums. While the body has typically operated museums and preservation of historic sites in physical form, it has dabbled in VR previously as well.

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In April 2020, the Google Arts & Culture division announced a partnership with the ASI, among other museums and bodies in India. Through this partnership, five of ASI’s historical monuments and sites are presently available for a VR experience – such as the Taj Mahal in Agra, Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi, Maharashtra’s Ajanta and Ellora caves, and Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh. The experience can be viewed through the Google Arts & Culture app by attaching a basic Google Cardboard VR headset to a smartphone.

According to Bhardwaj, the upcoming AR and VR experiences being developed by IIT Jodhpur will be more advanced. They will feature an AR game that users can play to learn about historical excavation sites, monuments and more. He did not share which monuments will be included in this game, or what the name of the platform will be.

According to Kurush Dalal, retired professor of archaeology at University of Mumbai and director, school of archaeology at Mumbai’s India Student Centre Trust, a platform like this could significantly help boost interest in lesser known historical and archaeological artefacts in India. 

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“The ASI has conducted some of the greatest excavations in history, and a lot of findings from these projects could never be showcased in a museum due to space constraints. Having a VR museum built specifically to showcase the ASI’s achievements could bring out historical items that have never been seen before,” Dalal said.

He added that the initial plans to build a VR museum under the ASI were underway about a year ago, and once completed, could help draw younger audiences to archaeology.

Manas Bairagi, chief executive of IIT Jodhpur’s iHub Drishti TIH, said that the institute’s project with ASI is one of the many AR and VR projects that are underway under the Indian government. Bairagi said that such opportunities will only increase in future, as the government’s acknowledgement of animation, visual effects, gaming and comics (AVGC) as a formal sector will boost opportunities for AR and VR developers to find new employment avenues in India.

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“The global market for AR, VR and MR products presently stands at around $30 billion, and by 2024, is set to grow 10x. India’s AR/VR market presently is worth around $1.8 billion, and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 40% – boosted by the idea of the metaverse,” Bairagi added.