Empowering Communities through Visualization Technology: A Glimpse into VR-Lab's Presentation at Trearkitektur 2024 Conference

By Ramzi Hassan

Trearkitektur 2024 Conference
Photo: Ramzi Hassan

Ramzi Hassan, Director of the VR-Lab at NMBU, was an invited speaker at the Trearkitektur 2024 conference held in Oslo, in April 2024. The conference, themed "Architecture and Artificial Intelligence," aimed to explore the profound influence of artificial intelligence on architectural practices.

Hassan delivered an insightful talk titled "Seeing is Believing: How Visual Technologies Empower Communities," where he delved into the transformative potential of visualization technologies as a catalyst for social change, drawing insights and inspiration from his projects. Hassan provided a comprehensive overview of the intersection between technology and community empowerment, emphasizing the need to focus on the meaningful applications of visualization technologies.

In his presentation, Hassan showcased examples of how innovative applications of Virtual Reality (VR), when used for architectural heritage preservation, can have a positive impact and enhance community engagement towards their heritage. Hassan emphasized that local communities exhibit immense pride and interest in their cultural heritage, yet face significant challenges such as a lack of clear narrative, knowledge, skills, and financial limitations. The introduction of VR technology can significantly widen public engagement, sparking personal interest in protecting local monuments, and fostering rational local decision-making to preserve heritage sites while also bringing socio-economic opportunities.

Using the digital reconstruction project for Hisham Palace in Palestine as a case study, Hassan illustrated how interdisciplinary teams utilize VR to meticulously document and interpret historical environments. By reconstructing these environments and facilitating collaborative dialogue, VR fosters a deeper understanding and appreciation of cultural heritage. Hassan highlighted that the impact of these initiatives extends beyond mere documentation, inspiring broader adoption of VR in heritage preservation efforts, fostering collaborations with international institutions, and gaining recognition from entities like the United Nations. Stakeholders continue to explore innovative approaches to community engagement and public awareness through ongoing research and testing, leveraging the immersive capabilities of VR.

As the conference delved into the implications of artificial intelligence on architectural practices, Hassan's presentation served as a poignant reminder of the human-centric approach necessary in harnessing technology for the greater good. By leveraging technology to preserve, interpret, and share the stories embedded within cultural heritage sites, communities can reclaim their narratives and pave the way toward a more inclusive and sustainable future. During the panel discussion, Hassan underscored the importance of discerning where to draw the line when using AI technology, ensuring that AI remains a tool rather than a replacement for human-centric processes.

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