This summer, I contributed to Project SPACES - Spatialized Performance And Ceremonial Event Simulations, working with Dr. Norman Badler and Dr. Clark Ericsson. The goal of the project is to create a parametrized augmented reality simulation of ancient public ceremonies at Pachacamac, now an archaeological site in Peru, and formerly an important sacred site frequented by pilgrims of various ancient Andean cultures. The immersive environment is created as an educational experience. It gives audience of the simulation the opportunity to participate in processional environments from about 1300 years ago. Developing immersive environment consists of modeling, shading, and lighting the landscape, people, and props, followed by assembling the models, performing crowd simulation, and rendering the scene.
Through my participation in the project, I learned what each of the stages entails and eventually narrowed down my focus on modeling and shading props for Pachacamac. Because sound played a significant role in the indigenous rituals, I was particularly drawn to investigating Andean musical instruments. After a few visits to the Penn Museum, I decided to narrow down my focus on panpipes and whistling bottles, some of the most typical instruments to the area. Learning how they generate sound and closely inspecting them informed how I modeled them later on. In fact, most of the time I spent on the project involved learning to model the musical instruments and refining my work. Given my interest in sound, I also branched out to features of realistic sound in Virtual and Augmented reality experiences. In the future, I hope to integrate my theoretical knowledge about sound in games and AR/ VR with the 3D modelling skills in order to enhance the realistic effects of participation in Pachacamac processions.
This project significantly expanded my understanding of the field of Computer Graphics, in which I had no prior experience before joining the lab. Throughout the weeks of PURM, I kept searching for the optimal way to acquire new skills independently and I realized, quite surprisingly, how much I could learn with minimal supervision. These experiences inspired me to look more closely at the animation industry, and even more so, to embrace the environment with plenty of uncertainty and recognize that the process of acquiring new skills, technical or not, is just as meaningful as the contribution I ultimately make to the project. Despite the initial hesitation, I have grown fond of the research process for the sake of the process and am excited to explore as many technical fields as I can in my remaining time at Penn.