For most of us, watching antique teacups behind glass walls in museums has never been our favorite thing to do, and Dutch designer Maaike Roozenburg shared these feelings. Old functional objects could never come to life if we can only look at them. She therefore decided to do something about it and came up with the expression ‘smart replicas’.
So what are smart replicas? Thanks to 3D printing technology she was able to make a replica of each object, after which she added a layer of augmented reality information. The information from each piece could thereafter be accessed via smartphone or tablet, which makes the dull, old teacups come to life for visitors.
To Dezeen magazine she said the following:
“I think most people would agree that visiting a museum to look at teacups exhibited in glass boxes is boring. Utensils were made to be used, to be presented with life, and in a museum format they lose their main purpose and obviously their soul.”
It, however, took some time to convince all parties to cooperate with Roozenburg. The first person she contacted was Harold E. Henkes, who owns the largest collection of ancient glass objects in The Netherlands. He liked the idea, but his collection was stored at the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum. It took her as many as six months to convince the museum, as they were afraid of the method damaging their collection. The first time she even took out insurance, but everything went well.
So what did they exactly do? First she asked for the help of Jouke Verlinden, an assistant professor in computer aided engineering at TU Delft. He came up with a system to 3D scan and model the collection, and tried it first on seven antique teacups. They put a bed with the cups into a tomography scanner and used the images from the scanner to create proper 3D models, which they printed out. They created molds to cast further versions of the teacups in porcelain.
Last summer, the cups were exposed at the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum, but lots of visitors didn’t start using their smartphones or iPads to make the objects come to life. Roozenburg thinks museum visitors have become very passive, she tells Deezen. “It really was a new idea so the hurdle was encouraging museum visitors to get out their electronic devices and engage. The reaction underscored just how passive a visit to the museum has become. People were just not used to it.”
But that’s not just it, as she continued her project. In order to improve the virtual reality interface, she started working with creative agency LikeFriends. They are able to bring together illustration, animation, photography, sound effects and video projection in 2D and 3D layers. Roozenburg is currently looking for a manufacturing partner in China and a couple of major institutions from The Netherlands have been contacting her to talk about how they could use her ideas.
Image credits: Maaike Roozenburg.