A team of researchers from the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture (SFEA) at AUB participated in the World Economic Forum (WEF) on the Middle East and North Africa showcasing several Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) demonstrations with cultural heritage as their central theme.
The team, composed of SFEA Professors Imad H. Elhajj, Daniel Asmar, and Robert Saliba (representing Dr. Howayda Al-Harithy), as well as PhD student Abbas Sidaoui, headed to the Dead Sea, Jordan, from May 19 to 21 to take part in the forum. The demonstrations, which were developed at the Vision and Robotics Laboratory at SFEA, highlighted the importance of such technologies in documenting, augmenting, and restoring cultural heritage sites.
The first VR application was built around the Roman Theater in Byblos and the second included a flight over the Pigeon Rock in Ras Beirut. For the AR application, several artifacts from the Beirut National Museum were exhibited in an interactive manner. The VR and AR demonstrations used Oculus RIFT and Microsoft HoloLens devices.
Teasers of the demos can be watched on the following links, Raouche, Byblos, AR. To experience the demos please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The AUB team was one of only two academic teams from around the world that took part in the WEF, exhibiting their latest innovations. Over three days, the AUB booth attracted many high profile visitors from the event’s 1,200 participants. The visitors included AUB President Dr. Fadlo Khuri, Minister of Public Health Ghassan Hasbani, AUB Trustee Abdulsalam Haykal, AUB Trustee Fadi Ghandour, and several other AUB alumni, friends, and guests.
“Given the impact and reach of the World Economic Forum, our participation in such events is a testimony to AUB’s leading role in the region, which further places a responsibility on us to strengthen this role and shape the research and development agenda for the region,” said Dr. ElHajj. “VR and AR are enabling technologies and game-changers for several domains and industries. At AUB, we are working on improving these technologies and, at the same time, identifying impactful applications.”
In addition to taking part in the exhibit, members of the AUB team contributed to several sessions alongside international experts. Saliba participated in the session entitled “Safeguarding Heritage for Humanity,” which was moderated by CNN International correspondent Jomana Karadsheh Scott. Professor Elhajj participated in the session “The Moral Compass of Artificial Intelligence,” which was facilitated by Mr. Habib Haddad, President and Managing Director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) E14 Fund.
The excellent turnout and interest by visitors at the booth and the dynamic interactions with attendees of the sessions will lead to several collaborative opportunities with the team and AUB.