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Published: March 1999.

Abstracts

The Invisible Person: an Interactive Virtual Environment at the Technisches Museum Wien

Otmar Moritsch , Technisches Museum Wien, Austria
Harald Krämer , Austria

Session: Time for Renovations

The main question is not how can we transfer the content of our database management systems to our colleagues or visitors? The main question is how can we learn again to communicate together and with the following generations? This is one of the main tasks of museum policy at the beginning of the 21st century. But there are a lot of other suggestions: What is the real benefit of the using multimedia technology and database management systems in museums in proportion to the expenditure? How does computer technology engage the objects and the museum? How does the visitor handle the experience of electronic reproductions and originals? What about the aura of the original? When becomes the reproduction of a reproduction into an original again? How interactive is the interactivity really? Do the registrars, visitors know something about the change of perception using computer technology in the museums? The relation between virtuality and reality has changed. The question of the medium is rarely of interest nowadays. Interactivity can produce a specific relation to reality. Traditional categories are no longer valid, even though they continue to exist. Other special fields, such as genetic engineering, cybernetics, artificial intelligence, cyberspace, as well as ecology, sociology and politics are introduced. The traditional understanding of chronology disappears. Technological development and the media combine past, presence and future. The world becomes a museum.

Nowadays, one of the main tasks of the museum is to critically deal with the possibilities of electronic reproductions. The meaning and importance of museums are changing in the age of digital revolution. The museum of the 21st century will have to find his position in the community, his specific digital corporate identity, to be a constructive counterpart to the deluge of reproductive media images, and it will also have to consider itself an interactive transmitter actively influencing the opening of electronic "elbow spaces" and the creation of new visual codes. With the Invisible Person - an interactive virtual environment, the Technisches Museum Wien will create a virtual moderator, a guide through the world of new visual codes, of reproductional reproductions, of originals, aura and interactivity.

Based on the concept of the ALIVE project, developed at the MIT Media Lab, future visitors of the Technisches Museum Wien will be able to interact with an artificial intelligence object, named the Invisible Person, based on an immersive virtual environment. That means, without any additional devices, the visitor will be able to communicate with the artificial life form through gesture elements (a later step is to incorporate audio) over a back projection wall which acts as a virtual mirror. The complete scene will be generated on a SGI machine in real-time in a daylight environment. After a testing period in the museum, we want to bring the Invisible Person and the experiences we've made with him on the web.