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THE INDIAN DIGITAL HERITAGE (IDH) RESEARCH PROJECT
 

I. Overall Background Scope of the IDH Project

India is known for her rich cultural and historical heritage. India’s history and land is studded with monuments that tell stories about vast kingdoms, great empires, architecture, monuments, culture and civilisation. India has had a continuous living culture that has generated a vast treasure of written, visual, and performance art and craft forms that speak to glory of the civilizations that have occupied her land. India’s rich history of conflicting dynasties and political struggles and the continuous use and exploitation of her land has also resulted in the partial destruction of many of her monuments. Likewise her continuously evolving tradition of higher art has meant that much of the origins and history of this evolution is known only to a few people. The task of documenting, archiving, and sharing India’s heritage is itself a monumental task, and despite dedicated efforts by many people and the government, it still remains a challenge. We live in an age of Digital storage and recreation. These technologies have the capacity to protect memories of the past against the destructive forces of time, nature and man made events. Already there are Digital Library projects underway to capture the written documents and manuscripts in digital form. These projects hold the promise of being able to preserve the wealth in these documents for many years and also to make them available to use and peruse by people from around the world. The India Digital Heritage (IDH) Research Project aims to extend the power of digital technologies to well beyond these monuments to art, architecture and all forms of cultural and historical knowledge. Beyond simply storing and sharing the heritage data and knowledge, the emerging technologies in computer vision, graphics, audio and video technologies and user interface design offers the prospect of creating vivid experiences of the heritage for common users. It also has the capacity to provide analytic tools for the art-historian, the architect or any scientist who may be interested in conducting scholarly studies on the heritage.

II. The IDH Research Project

The basic goal of the IDH project is to bring the power of GeoICT, a fine synergy of Geospatial technologies with matured Information Communication Technologies and development of technology tools to help preserve, use, and experience India’s vast heritage in digital form. Such a task can only be achieved by collaboration among different communities and agencies: the technology community consisting of scientists and engineers who can invent, innovate and develop appropriate technologies, the culture community consists of artists, art-historians, archaeologists, architects, anthropologists and other experts from the humanities and the social sciences who know and understand the heritage, government agencies who as custodians of India’s vast heritage can bring the necessary executive power to enable the collaboration, and private agencies, companies and other organizations who may be interested in this for a variety of reasons including tourism. With this in background, DST has constituted a Programme Advisory & Monitoring Committee (PAMC) on GeoICT under the Chairmanship of Prof Ashok Jhunjhunwala, IITMadras. The current IDH is one of the R&D tracks of broader GeoICT programme launched by DST/NRDMS.

III. Goals of IDH

  • Investigation of the basic requirements related to Digital Heritage archiving and usage: Through collaboration between the culture and the technology communities, identify the nature and form of heritage that is most suitable for digital capture, storage, and usage.
  • Data collection and archiving: Create through a community based effort data, sources, standards, schemas as well as the necessary technology to enable the storage and processing of relevant media.
  • Research and creation of tools and technologies: Identify and address technological research issues that arise during the course of the project and further the state of the art by innovating new technologies.
  • User Experience: Create compelling and holistic end user experiences that highlight the historical and artistic significance of various monuments and other types of heritage content.

In addition to these technical and technological goals, the project has a few key societal goals:

  • The project will bring together diverse groups from the technical and cultural communities to work together in a key showcase effort. It is anticipated that this will lead to an exciting and productive cross-fertilization of ideas, leading to innovative research and knowledge development.
  • The project will create a set of technologies and tools that can be used for similar efforts during and made available to researchers.
  • During the course of the project, training will be imparted to a group of talented group of college level students in the basic technologies and the principles behind them. This will both propagate some of the key knowledge well beyond the project itself and create a talent pool that can take these technologies further.
  • The project aims at establishment of close colloborations at National and International Agencies and work towards delivery based end results. This will both allow an important and useful exchange of ideas and also prepare these agencies for further exploitation of the technologies after the project is completed.

IV. Project Execution Strategy

The goals of the IDH project are broad. They are not specific to any one monument or any one type of art, architecture or cultural heritage.

  • The project is a research effort with clear deliveries
  • While digital technologies are reaching a point of maturity where we can even consider applying them to such a vast problem, they are not ready for casual use or use at scale in a production setting. They are still primarily research tools and technologies.
  • The project provides opportunities for technology researchers to invent and innovate new technologies to deal with variety of media types appropriate for capturing many types of heritage such as dance forms, poetry, oral history, rituals and festivals, etc.
  • The project will bring together diverse groups of experts and researchers from the technology and culture side for the first time
  • Given the diverse group of people involved in the project and its inherent experimental nature (both from a technical and a community creation perspective), we cannot plan for a single integrated end product, tool, technology, archive, or demonstration. Instead it is anticipated that the project will enable the showcasing of multiple ideas, technologies and demonstrations through the natural interaction and collaboration of different scientists.

The best way to achieve the technical as well as the community-building goals of the project is to have the entire community focus on one or two key heritage sites in the country. The selected sites should satisfy a few key criteria:

  • They should be of significant historical and cultural importance to India.
  • They should encompass a diverse variety of heritage, including architecture, archaeology, a significant political history, cultural traditions and practices, festivals and rituals, poetry, various forms of visual and performance art, coinage, etc.
  • Once the site is chosen, different research group from the technical and cultural sides can propose individual projects to DST. The standard procedure of DST shall be followed while processing the projects for finanical approvals.
  • Though the projects themselves are loosely coupled in order to ensure overall progress, in consultation with PAMC, DST shall constitute a Project Implementation Committee (PIC) who will oversee the day to day progress of the IDH projects. The PIC shall report progress to the DSTon a regular basis. It will also identify any critical needs and issues that may arise during the course of the project and work with the PAMC to resolve them.

The IDH-Hampi shall be executed in phased manner

Phase-I: consists of 12 technology projects covering the areas of Computer Vision, graphics, image processing. Almost all IIT's are participating in this endeavour. All 12 projects are already sanctioned by DST and being executed.

Phase-II: Consists of around 13 projects covering Lidar laser scnanning, creation of Digita Geo-spatial data for the entire 20 Sq.K.M of Hampi ruins, culture dimensions, stories and art forms. This phase is under process.

Phase-III: Creation of miniature Hampi models in an area of (100Mtr x 100 Mtr), 3Max studio etc., under CSR industrial sponsorships.

National Institute of Advanced Studies, IISc, Bangalore and IITBombay are the co-ordinators of the projects with support from DST.