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Diverse museum artifacts, such as ceramics, porcelain, and ritual bronzes, can convey a sense of a people's history and culture, time, or place. Following specific criteria about the protection, maintenance, and preservation of these artifacts ensures their proper care and restoration. Often, this means visitors must view the artifacts statically in a glass showcase, precluding any kind of physical interaction. Moreover, because of limited exhibition space, many equally precious, beautiful, and important objects in the museum's possession are unfortunately out of sight in storerooms. To make these objects more accessible, we developed a tangible photorealistic virtual museum system that lets people interact naturally and have an immersive experience with museum exhibits. Our system displays the museum's exhibits using augmented panorama (AP), a technique that enhances a panorama with object-centered image sets (OCISs), or object movies. The AP gives viewers the impression that they're touring and observing the museum's exhibits. The vision-based tangible interface lets viewers focus on a particular object in the exhibit using a handheld 3D physical control cube (PCC). The PCC lets the viewer control the AP and examine an artifact for a more detailed appreciation. With intuitive hand movements, viewers can enlarge the object and rotate it in any direction. Furthermore, the virtual AP space doesn't have the limitations of real museum space. The system lets visitors enjoy any and all of the museum's artifacts stored in the system, even if they aren't physically on exhibit in the museum.
Date of Publication: Jan.-Feb. 2005