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India’s New AR/VR App for Memory Studies

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The Centre for Memory Studies at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-Madras) has introduced the ‘MovingMemory’ application, which harnesses both augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) technologies to capture diverse moving models of memory through digital reconstruction. It was designed to enhance the tourist experience at cultural and heritage sites. It offers virtual tours of famous places in India.

The app’s features allow users to choose their preferred avatar and navigate through three-dimensional spaces. According to a statement from IIT-Madras, it is embedded with additional layers of video, audio, 3D images, and interactive elements which may be used as models for sustainable and heritage-oriented pedagogic and research approaches.

Once the app becomes available to the public, MovingMemory can be accessed from both Android and iOS devices, as well as through browser-based platforms, setting it apart as a uniquely inclusive application. It is a spatial app created with the capability to exist within the metaverse realm.

MovingMemory was introduced at the second annual conference of the Indian Network for Memory Studies, titled ‘Memory, Ecology, and Sustainability.’ It was organised jointly by the Indian Network for Memory Studies and the Centre for Memory Studies at IIT- Madras. It covers a wide range of human-centred technologies and policies related to cultural memory and sustainable development goals, both within India and on a global scale.

At the inaugural event, IIT-Madras Director, V. Kamakoti, said, “It is crucial that we foreground the urgent need to incorporate collective memory in our understanding and ability to anticipate policies related to ecological issues such as climate change. Human as well as non-human forms of memory (such as the memory of water and the memory of nature) such as the Spanish Flu and the 2015 Chennai floods may be studied through interdisciplinary and collaborative formats in order to further memory studies as a discipline.”

The conference aims to connect rituals of remembering and experiencing the environment to systems of sustainability, which assume material, cultural, and technological dimensions through significant events like disasters and floods and long-term processes of change.

The international conference attracted approximately 100 presenters and more than 500 attendees from across India, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, New Zealand, Morocco, Canada, Sweden, Bangladesh, and other countries.

An official at the event said that the conference, like all other research activities at the Centre for Memory Studies at IIT-Madras, seeks to bridge technology studies and humanities. Its purpose is to provide a more complex model of engaging with memory, ecology, and sustainability, while also connecting to issues such as disaster studies, anticipatory governance, and durability.

Another expert from IIT-Madras noted the importance of reexamining pre-modern modes of memory and resilience and integrating those with the post-modern modes through which ecology and sustainability practices may receive a more nuanced understanding.  These interdisciplinary practices have triggered a paradigm shift in both humanities education and research.

IIT-Madras has undertaken several initiatives in the field of AR/VR. In April, it announced it was developing instructional and educational models that use AR/VR technologies, aimed at assisting secondary schools in rural regions of the country. As OpenGov Asia reported, the initiative provides students with unique opportunities to engage in immersive and experiential learning through VR-enabled technology. Subjects like social science, history, sciences, and languages can be effectively taught using AR/VR world-building, digital storytelling, and educational games. An inaugural AR-based mobile app was launched to capture the history of the transnational Anglo-Indian community across 500 years.

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