2 minutes to read Posted on Tuesday May 11, 2021

Updated on Tuesday May 11, 2021

portrait of Jolan Wuyts

Jolan Wuyts

Collections Editor , Europeana Foundation

Fostering reuse of digital cultural heritage with V4Design

The V4Design Horizon2020 project has integrated 3D cultural heritage objects into the daily workflow of creative designers, encouraging the reuse of digital cultural heritage in architecture, video game creation, and creative design. Explore what the project has achieved!

Ruins of a building depicted in a 3D programme
Title: An example of a piece of a 3D design created with automatically reconstructed 3D models from audiovisual content fed through the V4Design pipeline.
Date: 2021
Institution: V4Design Project

From 2017 to 2021, the V4Design project, funded under the H2020 research and innovation programme, has worked to lower barriers to access to digital cultural heritage objects for architects, creative designers and video game creators. These communities are often overlooked by the cultural heritage sector, but are a powerful creative force when reusing and remixing cultural heritage to power bold new games, architectural designs, or other creative projects.

The V4Design project started by recognising the barriers between someone discovering a great piece of digitised cultural heritage and being able to reuse that digital cultural heritage in 3D designs. While it is a straightforward process to download, open and edit 2D images, the process isn't as simple in three dimensions. A lot of cultural heritage content hasn't been digitised into easily re-usable 3D objects (see the final recommendation of the 3D content in Europeana Task Force), severely restricting the data sources that architects, video game creators and creative designers can use. V4Design solved this problem by creating a pipeline that supports the integration of 3D cultural heritage objects into the daily creative workflows of these professionals, by making it easier to generate 3D models from video input.

Through V4design, Europeana aimed to broaden the scope of its audiences for reuse of digital cultural heritage, giving creative designers the tools they need to reuse the past in their own innovative work. Throughout the project, Europeana provided more than 370.000 digital cultural heritage objects that can now easily be discovered and reused in the V4Design platform. Explore further innovations below! 

Plugins for 3D design tools

To facilitate the integration of 3D digital cultural heritage content into the daily workflow of designers, the project looked at the most popular 3D design tools and developed plugins for those tools: Unity (plugin to be released publicly soon) and Rhino3D. People using these tools now have access to a plugin that makes re-using cultural heritage as easy as pressing a button. The plugins allow users to search through thousands of available 3D models available in the V4Design database and import them into their project with a click. 

Using the V4Design Rhino plugin to search for, find, and export a 3D model into a scene. V4Design Project, 2021. CC BY-SA. Via GIPHY

For Unity, the plugin is also implemented in Virtual Reality (VR), allowing anyone to hop into VR and drag 3D cultural heritage models right into their virtual environment. 

Extract 3D from video content

Thanks to V4Design, not only can you search through the thousands of already available 3D models created from audiovisual content in Europeana and other sources, you can use your own video files as input as well. If you have or make a video of any object, moving around it to get all angles, you can import that video into the V4Design pipeline which will extract usable 3D models from it. This shortens the time needed to go from physical object to 3D model, making it easy for anyone to take anything from their environment and import and reuse it in their 3D projects. An example of this in practice was showcased by Herzog de Meuron, an architecture firm based in Basel, Germany. Find out how they used V4Design in their work.

Analyse and enrich data and metadata

To help with the 3D pipeline, and to know where to transfer textures onto, the project developed several machine learning algorithms. Some models look at still images to extract textures and patterns that can then be transferred to a 3D model or a 2D image.

Water being poured from a teapot
Title: Example of reuse using the V4design project, where textures from other cultural heritage content has been reused to overlay on this 3D model.
Creator: V4Design Project
Date: 2021
Water being poured from a teapot

The extraction and transfer of patterns and textures is of special importance in 3D design because 3D models have, by default, no texture or colour. To creatively reuse otherwise grey and bland 3D models, you need to put meshes of texture and colour onto it. With the V4Design plugin, any piece of cultural heritage can now be reused to decorate 3D models. 

Other machine learning algorithms identify and localise architectural features in video content. This makes it easy to extract only that building as a 3D model - see an example here. The algorithms also tag, recognise and segment the buildings into their constituent parts, and all metadata is stored in the asset and indexed in the V4Design database.

Buildings rendered in 3D
Title: Examples of remixed 3D cultural heritage objects using V4Design.
Creator: V4Design project
Date: 2021
Buildings rendered in 3D

Finally, the V4Design pipeline enriches textual metadata that comes from content providers like Europeana to make finding the 3D model you are looking for a lot easier. Learn more about exactly which Natural Language Processing techniques are used in V4Design in this article.

Find out more

We're looking forward to seeing how you reuse and re-mix our cultural heritage into something completely new! To start playing with the V4Design tools, you can Download Rhino and the V4D4Rhino plugin, or download Unity today. You can also learn more about the outcomes of V4Design on the project page or on v4design.eu