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Virtual Reality Being Used by American University of Sharjah to Exhibit Palestinian History

A virtual reality-based documentary feature, created by an educator at the AUS (American University of Sharjah) College of Arts and Sciences, has been chosen among eight installations at the “Mutation Hybridization” exhibit, currently being shown at Paris’s Memory of the Future Museum. Dr. Suheil Dahdal, Assistant Professor, Mass Communication, took a duration of five years to reach completion of the VR project, which has been named as Kan Yama Kan (Once Upon A Time In Palestine). Using virtual reality, this documentary makes an attempt to uphold Palestinian culture. It is the use of latest technologies to reimagine the past.

Sharek Youth Forum, a youth group from Palestine, and 18 students from all the AUS colleges participated in the creation of the VR project. The shoot was completed in Palestine and at the on-campus MCM studio. The project was consolidated with the support of the AUS Faculty Research Grant.

The technology being used for this development might be new, but the concept is not new to its creator. According to Dr. Dahdal, he came up with the idea of the project in 2003 whilst operating a children’s summer camp at the Jenin refugee encampment in West Bank. What he observed and learnt at the refugee camp made Dahdal aware of the importance of preserving the history. The VR project created by Dahdal utilises augmented reality and virtual reality technology.

Dr. Dahdal talked in greater detail about the documentary. According to him, the summer camp held back in 2003 had a total of 80 participants. Every night, the participants would listen to stories related to the history of Palestine from elders. The children who were inspired by the stories went on to create films and artwork based on them for two weeks.

Dr. Dahdal remarked that the project meant a lot to him, as it was about highlighting and documenting the oral history of Palestine prior to 1948. He assigned urgency to completing the project, as there are not many living individuals who can share their accounts of past happenings. He hopes that his project will tell the stories to future generations.

Elaborating further on his sentiments regarding the project, Dr. Dahdal expressed his gratitude for being able to work with students who helped him ace the unique and revolutionary innovation. It is a world’s first, as it combines live footage videos within a three-dimensional reimagined Palestinian village community. Watchers get an immersive experience exploring the historical surroundings with precise audio and visual cues.

The exhibition is set to continue till August 31. To get more information regarding the VR project, one can visit the website www.kykpalestine.com.

Upon visiting the website, users are greeted with a video link showing a bit of what they can expect with the VR experience. It shows a user changing their field of view whilist within the setting of a pre-1948 Palestinian village. Users can also expect to see many characters pop up at designated locations.

An AR photo album is also being made available by the developer.

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