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Museum exhibits come to life with AR

Using a reconstructed virtual skeleton of a Teleocrater rhadinus, a creature from the time before dinosaurs, a Virginia Tech group is turning museum exhibits to life. This skeleton will be the focal point of an imaginative teaching engagement.

A mounted 3D-printed skeleton and digital copies of every single bone are also parts of this dynamic learning environment. The associated teaching materials act as somewhat of a missing link between what scientists already know and the greater history of the planet. It will be made accessible to people around the world.

The Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology Major SEAD Grant received 25 thousand dollars in funding to enable the development of the initiative Modern Skeleton: Transforming Natural History into Interactive and Immersive Experiences. The Department of Geosciences group, led by palaeontologists Sterling Nesbitt and Michelle Stocker, has the objective of connecting static skeleton museum displays and online access to the amount of knowledge they hold.

According to Nesbitt, In museums around the world, there are now just static skeletons, thus making most interaction passive. The sole information about the animal is on a single display in front of the showcase. However, users can inspect a fragment or a skeleton and observe its structural properties. Nesbitt said that there are efforts being made to make the display more attuned to the animal being exhibited. With their phones, visitors can perform bone scans that are translated in a virtual setting.

Participants will be able to interact with the Teleocrater rhadinus virtual skeleton, which was made from authentic fossils, through an augmented reality (AR) application after it has been 3D printed as a standalone skeleton. Visitors can obtain details about the significance of the creature, the time and method of it being found, links between different skeletons, and the way the virtual encounter was made with this application.

Teleocrater, discovered in Tanzania, East Africa, lived about 245 million years ago during the Triassic Period, before dinosaurs. It was named by palaeontologists including those from Virginia Tech several years back. It was around 7 feet long, had a long tail and a long neck, and moved on four legs like those of crocodilians. It was supposedly a relative of dinosaurs. One of the earliest dinosaur relatives ever uncovered was the carnivorous Teleocrater, whose remains are currently on display on the premises of Virginia Tech.

Todd Ogle, the executive director of the University Libraries’ Applied Research in Immersive Experiences and Simulations (ARIES), remarked that the palaeontology involved in the project is a thing of considerable significance. He elaborated that if these concepts and methods are improved, they might even be used in larger institutions like the Field Museum in Chicago or world-acclaimed museums such as National History Museum in London. Ogle said that it is hence a thing of great importance.

With a digital scan, this augmented reality experience could theoretically be made for any fossil, including 3D-printed ones. More updates are expected from the project in the near future.

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