April 20, 2009

Technology virtually restores artifacts

U.S. scientists say they have created a virtual reality that visually restores deteriorated artifacts while leaving them physically unchanged.

Purdue University Assistant Professor Daniel Aliaga and graduate students Alvin Law and Yu Hong Yeung developed the technique that uses light projections to give the illusion of restoration.

Restoration efforts are faced with the challenge of keeping the object as unaltered as possible, while still providing a view of the object as it was initially intended to be seen, Aliaga said. Using off-the-shelf hardware we have developed a fundamentally different way to visually explore and compare multiple restorations on objects without any physical alteration.

The technique also allows for an interactive display that would let museum visitors view several possible restored states for the object.

Historical artifacts might actually have multiple possible restorations, either because of uncertainty in its original appearance or because the artifact appeared differently depending on the time period, Aliaga said. We are able to get past these limitations by altering the visual appearance of the objects in a very flexible manner.

The team will give demonstrations of the process this week at the Eiteljorg Museum of Native American Art and the Indianapolis Museum of Art.