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Bangaluru-based Museum of Art & Photography is partnering with Microsoft to launch a powerful digital AI platform, interactive that directs viewers to the history of textiles across regions and times.
A hanging Persian wall dating from the late 17th Century or early 18th Century is my starting point. If you look closely at the cloth, you will see a royal man sitting in the courtyard surrounded by crocodiles and an elephant-like statue standing in front of which seven students are dressed in court. The situation is probably in the garden. Highlighting the kalamkari method of hand painting and block printing involving dye resistance, the fabric is an acceptable combination of red, maroon and indigo, defined in black.
Just one click, connected by the first with a vein, is a carpet-decorated carpet that dates back to between 1750 and 1850, probably in Armenia or Dagestan. With the help of instructional arteries, the rich fabric history reveals itself on screen. Thanks to AI (Artificial Intelligence) and Microsoft-sponsored machine learning, Interwoven, the proud South Asian textile collection Museum of Art & Photography (MAP), has reached worldwide.
The platform, which is easy to navigate, has filters to check connectors and dividers between each piece of fabric: patterns and images, places and cultures, dates and times, and so on. One also gets to plan a custom trip by choosing one piece of art.
The growing MAP collection has been in operation for one and a half years. “The reason we choose fabrics is because it reflects all the connections between regions and cultures. Take South Asian fabrics as an example: our craftsmen have been able to weave some of the most sophisticated techniques and produce fine fabrics that floated on the seas because of the strong trade connections that existed. We have been in the world market for centuries, ”said Kamini Sawhney, director of MAP. Although Interwoven draws on a solid fabric base in the museum collection, it includes artefacts from international institutions, such as V&A (London), MET (New York), Rietberg (Zürich), and the Royal Ontario Museum (Canada).
Technology has been great
AI as a technology is widely accepted in many domains and industries, Rohini Srivathsa, chief technology officer at Microsoft India, quips. AI for Good is a Microsoft program that, over the next five years, demonstrates a strong commitment to using technology to address specific challenges and opportunities in the world. “AI for Cultural Heritage is one of five projects of this nature. And this partnership is a heavenly marriage, ”he adds.
“The thinking behind the experience when you go to the site, about the journey people are going through, comes from the MAP. In the background, there is a certain technology at play – AI text statistics, mental search, custom viewing, computer vision … There is a huge amount of data tagging and development of training models that take place in the background. But once you create that, machine learning and AI engines can detect exciting interactions between MAP and our partner museums, ”said Rohini. These are links that the human eye may not be able to see. “It opens up the ability to make the most of your personal feelings,” he adds. When the right tools are placed in the hands of domain experts and technicians, technology takes on the role of duplication.
“There are two viewer options: selected tours and custom tours. The first was created by a team of educational researchers at the MAP academy. In this way, AI integrates the interactions between different art objects around the world, and the team explores and expands on them to create a journey, ”said Kamini. For example, in Leisure and Play, you will see drawings for hunting, reading or playing. The colorful dhurrie of the 1940s depicts a hunting ground, leading to an artefact from the Smithsonian Institute depicting an eagle dance from the 1830s. ” Each time, a customized tour will be different (for the same viewer). Therefore, an artist’s view would be different from that of a conservationist or a collector.
Does the criticism that art views are not of your highest quality when done in a digital environment, poses a challenge to this program? Kamini believes it depends on the will of man. “But we always look at this argument as‘ or / or ’. I don’t think one replaces the other. The key is to look at the benefits of digital space and make better use of it. You can not replicate the visual experience, but you can create a completely new one. We view the physical and digital space as two parts of a pole. ”
While we recognize the importance of physical interaction, it is worth looking at how the two approaches build on each other, adds Rohini. “If I’m sitting in a section 2 or section 3 [city] and I can hear this almost, there’s a high tendency for me to go and look at it physically.” He is confident that the introduction of Metaverse posts and tools such as Augmented Reality will change the way art is used.
Interwoven hopes to be such a part between the two. “Understanding the past is leading you into the future,” says Kamini, adding, “when you start a global cultural exchange. Art just helps us to understand the world around us. ”