Today, the first day visit was at Toppan Printing company. Toppan is a company which mainly focuses on printing technologies, and has over recent years broadened its horizon into related industries such as information and communication.
At the excursion, we were kindly received by two employees from Toppan and brought towards the basement of the large Toppan skyscraper in the middle of Tokyo, where we were invited to enter the virtual reality room. Toppan developed a series of new technologies based upon virtual reality (VR), which can be used to create extensive models of buildings and sites. In the VR-room, three examples of the application of these technologies were shown, all three focussed upon (re)constructing cultural heritage and buildings in VR.
The first example showed the UNESCO world heritage site of Toshodaiji, which is a Buddhist temple complex from the 8th century, located in the ancient city of Nara. With the VR-technology, this temple complex was entirely reconstructed and shown to us. The technology is able to reconstruct 3D images of the complex real-time, by application of a powerful computer. With this technique, it is possible to freely move and zoom within the defined area, and the computer renders the desired images.
Next to the exterior and interior of the building, the VR-techniques also enabled investigating structural elements of the ancient building, which cannot be seen from the outside. For example we saw that the connections between columns, ceiling and roof are made without any metal elements like nails. The system can be operated with remote controllers to intuitively move around end investigate the structure, which we could try out as well. The detailed VR-model of these structures obviously requires extensive data collection. This is done by Toppan with high-end camera systems and with accurate 3D distance measuring and colour measuring devices. The data acquired is afterwards combined with computer programmes into the building models.
Toppan develops and advertises with this technology mainly for cultural purposes, as all three examples shown to us (Toshodaiji temple, Sistine chapel & Machu Picchu) expressed. For cultural purposes this expensive technique is certainly applicable, as it could allow visitors at museums or cultural sites to see features they cannot see by themselves and learn them more about ancient building techniques. Furthermore, with VR, cultural treasures can be preserved digitally, which enables eternal preservation of valuable cultural heritage. However, other applications of VR techniques like this are also imaginable, for example in the construction industry or for engineering educational purposes. New buildings to be constructed could be made available in VR, to allow customers to get a better image in front of how a new building will look when it is completed. In the Netherlands, VR techniques are already being applied for some new projects with this purpose. These Dutch VR applications do not rely upon pictures like the technologies developed at Toppan, but do show the potential of VR in the construction industry. Unfortunately there was no possibility to discuss at Toppan about other applications of the techniques, or what their future purposes with these techniques are.
Figure: Toshodaiji temple reconstructed with the VR-techniques from Toppan. Image retrieved from: www.toppan.co.jp