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Ready for take-off! 3D holograms to bring Spitfire engine to your home

·2-min read
The atrium has nine objects as part of Witnesses to War including a Harrier, Spitfire and a V-1 and V-2 Rocket. There is also a T-34 tank and a Reuters Land Rover damaged by a rocket attack in Gaza (Lucy Young)
The atrium has nine objects as part of Witnesses to War including a Harrier, Spitfire and a V-1 and V-2 Rocket. There is also a T-34 tank and a Reuters Land Rover damaged by a rocket attack in Gaza (Lucy Young)

Treasures from some of the country’s biggest museums could be appearing in your home as 3D holograms thanks to pioneering new technology.

Staff at the Science Museum and the Imperial War Museum are working with a Thai technology firm Perception on the Holo-museum project.

They have already created holograms of a Merlin engine from a Second World War Spitfire fighter plane, from the museum, and Stephenson’s Rocket — one of the first working steam locomotives which is held at the National Railway Museum in York.

The project requires users to wear 3D glasses to see the images projected through their regular computer screens. It is being tested in schools in both countries but could be rolled out more widely if it is a success.

John Glancy, from the Imperial War Museum, said the aim was to provide “an engaging cultural experience” for the children. He said: “The other interesting thing is it gives us a global footprint and you’re no longer controlled by proximity to the site.”

The development of the technology comes as museums start to recover from lockdown. Visitor figures tumbled and institutions scrabbled to improve their digital offering.

Mr Glancy said: “It is interesting to think, if this technology had been established in 2019, what we would have produced over the last two years.” Dr Sirisilp Kongsilp, from Perception, said they wanted to bring “culture from behind the museum walls” and they were working on a version which meant the holograms did not need 3D glasses to be seen. He said: “We hope in the future we can expand this collaboration with museums around the world.”

Mr Glancy said the engines, which powered the planes that helped win the Battle of Britain, were at the cutting edge of technology 80 years ago in a similar way to how augmented reality is now.

Jonathan Newby, acting director of the Science Museum Group, said: “Digital exploration is part of our DNA so we’re really excited to be part of this project exploring the emerging holographic AR field which will really help grow our understanding of both the creative potential and how audiences respond.”

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