By Steve Winter
Through a host of new television shows that made their debuts this past season, time travel has emerged as one of the hottest new sub-genres within the overall realm of science fiction.
Through programs such as NBC’s Timeless, ABC’s Time After Time, and Fox’s Making History, viewers follow each program’s heroes as they travel back in time to affect changes in history. While that premise is certainly fun to watch, until a real life Dr. Emmett Brown truly invents the flux capacitor, the ability to travel back (or even forward) through the years to affect humanity’s timeline remains the pure domain of entertainment.
But thanks to the magic of McLean-based Cortina Productions, the ability to truly witness history in three dimensions is here today.
A full-service design and production company specializing in enhanced location-based multimedia experiences for museums and other cultural institutions, Cortina created two highly innovative museum demonstrations that deploy the wizardry and wonder of Augmented Reality – or “AR.” The company showcased these presentations at the LBJ Presidential Library and the Bullock Texas State History Museum as an adjunct to the South-By-Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin.
“We’ve taken a passive display and overlaid holographic imagery that essentially sits on top of a static museum display and brings an actual artifact, essentially an uncovered relic, out from the past into today,” said Cortina, Principal and Director of Development Jim Cortina.
“At the LBJ library, we wanted to connect visitors to President Johnson’s archives collection with its millions of documents that outline the administration and bring it to life,” said fellow Cortina Principal Amy Maddox, the driving force behind the Library project. “Visitors use the HoloLens and look up at this spectacular collection of the archive. We’re focused specifically on the Arab-Israeli War of 1967. They see the graphics of six days out in front of them, they pinch on a day and the documents come down in front of them. On those documents they hear from the President, his counsel and read a memo. They can also walk around the documents, look at the photos and get a glimpse into what was happening for these six days in his presidency.”
The Texas State History Museum exhibit journeyed even further back in time to restore a recovered 17th century shipwreck to its former glory. The flagship of French explorer Robert LaSalle’s vessels, LaBelle sunk in Matagorda Bay in 1685. Discovered in 1995 and later excavated, the hull now sits within its own exhibit space at the museum; yet when viewed through the HoloLens, the holographic imagery brings the entire 300-ton, 54-foot long vessel to life in its full-scale entirety, despite the fact that the existing hull of the ship constitutes the craft’s only excavated remains.
“The reception has been phenomenal,” Cortina said. “While it was great for visitors to the Presidential Library and the Texas State History Museum to see these demonstrations under optimal conditions, it’s unfortunate that we could not import both exhibits to the South-By-Southwest Trade Show floor, to share the experience with thousands.” While several hundred show patrons did, in fact, make the trek from the Austin Convention Center to both the library and the museum, less than two miles away, those who only visited Cortina at their Interactive Trade Show booth were treated to a handful of powerful examples of the interactive displays the company has created for hundreds of museums across the globe.
“Our interactive shark tank was definitely a huge hit,” Cortina said. Through a headmounted VR display, users stepped into a virtual shark tank to interact with schools of fish, stingrays, a humpback whale and they could even feed a great white shark. Other onsite displays included a demo from the New England Patriot Super Bowl exhibit featured at their Foxboro headquarters, Personal Stories of the Revolution from the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown and Barney’s White House from the George W. Busch Presidential Library, among others.
Closer to home, Cortina’s creations can be found at such notable venues as Mt. Vernon, the Library of Congress, the Newseum, several of the Smithsonian Institution Museums, National Museum of African American History & Culture and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial, among others.
By Steve Winter, Brotman|Winter|Fried, a Sage Communications Company and Capitol Communicator sponsor