News: Microsoft's HoloLens Morphs Paris Museum Model of Mont-Saint-Michel into Masterpiece of AR

Microsoft's HoloLens Morphs Paris Museum Model of Mont-Saint-Michel into Masterpiece of AR

Amid the opulent and historic confines of Paris, Microsoft is now hosting an exhibit at a local museum that brings a historic map of a Normandy tourist destination to life in augmented reality.

The Musée des Plans-Reliefs, a museum dedicated to 3D military maps dating back to the time of Napoleon and Louis XIV, has begun using the HoloLens to enhance a scale model of Mont-Saint-Michel, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its breathtaking medieval monastery perched atop the island's mountain. The museum considers the model, created in the 17th century, to be one of its most prized treasures in its collection.

Image by Microsoft/YouTube

Available to museum visitors now through Jan. 14, 2019, the experience offers museum visitors several different perspectives of the island. Using computer vision, the HoloLens app highlights features of the model and provides more information to visitors via photos within their field of view, as well as audio narration.

"For us, the point of digital technology and HoloLens is to tell the story of the model as well as the history of the site depicted and how our model is an important testimony to understand the history and the evolution of the site being portrayed," said Isabelle Warmoes, assistant director and historian at Musee des Plans-Reliefs.

Image by Microsoft/YouTube

Visitors can compare the physical model with a virtual model of the site as it appears today. In addition, the HoloLens transports visitors into historic structures, such as the monastery's cathedral.

"We often talk about experiencing something, and I just had a real experience, at once virtual, digital, but at the same time, I would say, aesthetic and historical ecause a dialogue starts almost immediately between the model as we see it today in this Musee des Plans-Reliefs but also, the universe it is linked to, that is to say, Mont-Saint-Michel," said Xavier Bailly, administrator of Abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel.

Image by Microsoft/YouTube

The experience was created by Asobo Studios, one Microsoft's first HoloLens development partners and the makers of HoloBooth and an AR overhead crane simulator, among other HoloLens apps.

"At a given point within the experience, you find yourself inside Mont-Saint-Michel, ultimately inside the cathedral, and you can observe its Gothic design and its Romanesque design," said David Dedeine, chief creative officer at Asobo Studio.

"And people love that, but also because they are at ease wearing a helmet that does not cut them off from the world. And suddenly, in the course of an instant, they are inside the cathedral, but have neither lost their bearings nor their balance. The user is very free in their movement."

Increasingly, augmented reality is giving museums the tools to update their collections to engage modern audiences. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, England's The Tank Museum, and Japan's Kennin-ji Zen temple are among the other recent examples of museums and exhibits that have already adopted augmented reality.

As smartglasses and head-mounted displays become more accessible, and image recognition becomes a standard feature of AR toolkits, guided museum tours in augmented reality could soon replace the standard-issue audio tours.

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Cover image via Microsoft/YouTube

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