When the hologram takes us back in time...

Going back in time is one of the dreams we all have, especially when visiting our museums. Attempting to recover the original appearance of buildings or works from the past is of major interest both in terms of research and in terms of valorization. It is now possible thanks to the combined know-how of the HoloForge and CNRS teams. The famous bust of Akhenaten has just recovered its colours thanks to the first polychromic hologram restitution of History.
Exclusive interview for UP' Magazine.
Ahe superimposition of holograms on a copy of the famous bust of Akhenaten has just revealed the original beauty of the work: The observer wearing a HoloLens helmet can now examine from all angles the paintings, volumes and decorations that adorned the statue at the time.
The CNRS is committed to the preservation of both historical and modern world heritage. Its teams work in particular on the geometric and chromatic reconstruction of great works of art and archaeological objects.
The prospects are numerous and extremely promising. The idea will therefore be to offer museum visitors the opportunity to "go back in time" to the works. It will be possible to observe sculptures, paintings, engravings... from their first creation, sometimes thousands of years earlier, to the present day through all their sketches, retouching, damage and renovation.
"Until today, the visualization of reconstructions was carried out thanks to projection technologies such as the play of lights on monuments: this solution remained calibrated, flat and fixed, the observer could not, for example, go around the object. confides Loïc Espinasse, Engineer at Archeotransfert, the transfer and valorisation department of Archeovision.
The UMS SHS-3D Archeovision of the CNRS has therefore joined forces with Asobo Studio and its HoloForge division to explore the uses of Mixed Reality HoloLens technologies for the humanities, archaeology and heritage.
The collaboration between a CNRS laboratory and a leading private player in this field makes it possible to address the real scientific challenges while offering the highest level of technical expertise. Whether for the manipulation, consultation or exploitation of research data, these tools will revolutionize uses.
"We are extremely proud to bring our solutions to the CNRS for such essential cultural projects, says Olivier Goguel, CTO at HoloForge Interactive. Researchers and curators transmit history through the objects it has given us, they will now be able to do so even more accurately. The viewer contemplates the work as it has come down to us through time and the holographic information that completes it will allow him to understand it better. »

UP': Who created HoloForge Interactive? Why was it created?
Asobo Studio was founded in 2002 by 12 people who had worked together before. The studio is first and foremost a video game developer.
The decision to create HoloForge was in September 2016, when our partner Microsoft revealed its HoloLens mixed reality headset (March 2016). As the only external studio in the world to have worked on holographic content for the headset, we were quickly approached by many companies who wanted to put the capabilities of the headset and holograms to work for their teams.
UP': What is the profile of the founders?
They are mainly video game developers, programmers, artists, game designers and animators.
UP': You want to offer museum visitors the opportunity to 'go back in time' to the works. What does this mean?
In partnership with the CNRS, we reconstruct from their scientific and historical data, the successive layers of colours, volumes, decorations, sketches ... of a work. The Hololens helmet wearers can thus view the restitution of a work layer by layer following the process of the craftsmen or artists of the time. Our first application concerns a famous bust of Akhenaten, where we propose to superimpose on the sculpture as it exists today, paintings, jewels, volumes, facial features that have disappeared over time. We also provide the explanations that allow a better understanding of the history, provenance and techniques used.
UP': From which technology?
It is a unique holographic technology using the HoloLens headset from Microsoft, our other partner.
This mixed reality headset allows you to display holograms in the real world in three dimensions: they are not only additional layers of information, they are also volume objects that you can walk around. The headset understands the environment, the interpète, and uses it to visualize holograms in a spatially relevant way. For example, it is able to recognize the pharaoh's bust and thus render the features of his face in the right places and in a way that is anchored in the environment: the holograms stay in place if you move around them.
UP': How and with whom did you collaborate? 
Very early on in the design process we were contacted by Microsoft with whom we had already collaborated on games with high innovative value. They offered us to participate in the adventure and we immediately believed in the project. It is with the Microsoft Redmond teams that we entirely designed three first holographic applications: two games of about 8 hours each and a holographic tourist guide to visit the main squares of Rome or Machu Picchu:
Today we are doing part of the 2 French companies present in the Europe Microsoft affiliate program.
UP': Can you remind us how this headset works?
Developed by Microsoft, HoloLens is a lightweight and completely autonomous device that allows to project holograms in the real world, for the person(s) who wear(s) it. Thanks to several sensors, a gyroscope and an accelerometer, the helmet scans and understands the environment in which it evolves, allowing the virtual to cohabit with the real.
UP': How did you collaborate with the CNRS? What did it bring you? What does it have to do with archeotransfer? And with archeovision?
The CNRS, archaeovision and archaeotransfer accompanied us in the design of the application. Their different expertise and knowledge allowed us to understand the subtleties of colorimetric restitution. And it's quite an art! It is necessary to understand the gestures of the craftsmen of the time, the materials used as well as the historical context in order to get as close as possible to the initial result.
Thanks to this, we have been able to retransmit this ancestral process in the best and most pedagogical way possible.
UP': What is the role of Asobo studio?
As for each project, we worked in co-design with the CNRS.
We are specialists in mixed reality, and even if we are eternally curious, our know-how is above all technical; we do not know the environment, the context and the customer's business. Our role is therefore to understand and solve his problems with him by exploiting the helmet's potential.
Thanks to more than five years of experience on HoloLens, our developers, artists and designers are armed to take up the most complex challenges on this new paradigm that is the mixed reality.
UP': What interests us about your technology is the concrete applications it brings. What are they? 
We work mainly on three axes:
- Professional training: UPSA, HoloCrane
Training in complete safety and at a lower cost (no deployment of heavy and dangerous equipment, savings in terms of logistics) It is thus possible to plunge into the operation of a complex machine in the production chain, usually very difficult to access or with a high cost.
- Remote assistance: AREVA, Naval Group
Gather all data in one place, spatialize information, reduce errors and make different expertise available at any time from any location.
A speaker can communicate with an expert at a distance to help him solve a problem, the latter will be able to see what the speaker sees but also point out important elements virtually and in space.
- Data visualization : Vinci, CNRS
Make available a large amount of data before and during the implementation of a project, share it with several people. For example, make it possible to physically visualize a radiation field to be avoided.
Concretely, the only limit of this technology is the creativity deployed to solve problems, all sectors are concerned.
UP': In museums, for example, could this technology be made available to the public? How can it be made available? By making HoloLens headsets available, like today's audioguides?
Totally! Again the possibilities are endless! We could see gigantic artifacts reconstituted from fragments; imagine the complete Victory of Samothrace or a living dinosaur reconstituted from a few bones. This has incredible potential to help visitors project themselves into the past. One could even plunge the visitor for a while into Ancient Rome with Romans circulating around its real space.
However, the objective is not to replace the guide, but to assist it and give it the tools necessary to convey knowledge in the best possible way.
UP': Are there already agreements in this sense and with whom? What kind of partnership?
We are already in contact with a number of large companies, including Vinci Autoroutes, Naval Group, Areva, UPSA etc...
And a lot of contacts also in the world of culture and amusement parks.
UP': Who are your publishing partners around the world?
Microsoft for the time being, as they own the technology/hardware.
UP': Who provides the content? How are you accredited by expert authorities? For example for museums, curators? And for B to B (industrialists)?
It's a true partnership relationship, not client-provider. The data come from our partners, they vouch for their authenticity.
UP': Do you have any examples of "general public" projects with one of your publishing partners to present to us?
Our two games remain the best illustration of what's going on in everyone's living rooms: here are videos taken in the living rooms of Fragments players:
UP': What kind of people do you work with: designer? artist? historian? archaeologist? engineer? 
With all the profiles of video games and innovative companies: engineers (we are notably partners of engineering schools to welcome young graduates) 2D and 3D artists, UX and UI experts, testers, producers.
The team works on all projects in their entirety to provide the smooth, simple and autonomous experience possible. For example, our UX/UI designer must ensure that the user can use the application in perfect autonomy from the 1st day of the project.era One second. So he makes sure that the user feedback is as clear as possible so that he understands alone where he is, what he has to do... A sound to confirm a button validation, a highlighting, etc... these are well known techniques of video games that we use here.
UP': What training do you need to work on your projects? What qualities?
Notably engineering via engineering schools, but also design, art and video game schools. Above all, you have to be curious, autonomous, and culturally very rich.
UP': Have you done any fundraising since your creation? Who are your investors?
No, all the capital still belongs to the co-founders, our independence is a real strength here.
UP': You say that "we are convinced that these tools will revolutionize the way people use them". Why is that?
Any new technology brings with it a great deal of excitement and extraordinary prospects, but it is rarely accepted so quickly... and forgotten!
We have noticed that users, even uninitiated or non-technophiles, very quickly accept and forget about the helmet in favour of the experience which is, let's remember, the most important subject. We develop applications to solve real problems, so the helmet is only the means, a user should not pay attention to it and on the contrary forget about the means in favour of the experience.
HoloForge will be present at CES 2018 to present "THE FUTURE OF TELEMEDICINE" for Nomadeec. A world first in pre-hospital care: Nomadeec will demonstrate live, on its booth, how healthcare professionals in the field use mixed reality and its mobile telemedicine platform to accelerate the orientation and management of victims, innovating with Microsoft HoloLens technology.

Interview by Fabienne Marion with Sébastian Wloch, CEO and David Dedeine, CCO
For more information on the activities of the CNRS :  Archeovision.cnrs.fr and Archeotransfert.cnrs.fr

Photo: Sebastian Wloch, CEO and David Dedeine, CCO HoloForge

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