Futurizonte Editor’s Note: I still remember the first time I visited an exhibit of holograms (August 1990). It took me sometime to understand what I was seeing. Now, HoloLens are real. I am sure the Holodeck should arrive soon.
Original author and publication date: Case Western Reserve University – October 25, 2019
Summary: Actress Meryl Streep narrates narwhal demo from Case Western Reserve University’s Interactive Commons; debuts Saturday at Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
WASHINGTON D.C. — The narwhal and its signature tusk are about to get the Microsoft HoloLens mixed-reality treatment, and one of the world’s foremost narwhal experts calls the result “overwhelming and magical.”
“Narwhal: Revealing an Arctic Legend” has been on exhibit at The Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History since 2017 and is due to go on tour of North America in 2020. Museum visitors can view panoramic Arctic landscape images, touch a cast of a narwhal’s spiral tusk, hear narwhal vocalizations and read Inuit narwhal legends.
This Saturday evening, Oct. 26, in a one-night-only debut as part of a family game night at the museum, visitors who don the Microsoft HoloLens headset will be drawn into an infinitely more interactive experience of 3-D images of the sea creatures swimming all around them.
During the HoloLens experience, Academy Award-winning actress Meryl Streep tells visitors (play a short clip of the narration using the media player) about the function of the narwhal’s tusk as a tooth, introduces them to an animated Inuit elder speaking in his indigenous language and leads them in a short game at the end of the HoloLens experience, where players “become a narwhal” and hunt by “stunning” their prey as narwhals do.
Inuit understanding, scientific research both represented
That simple game reflects not only the advance of mixed reality technology—the players still see each other in real life, but with animated heads and tusks with the other animals—but also the latest research.
Martin Nweeia, the content curator of the exhibit, is a 1984 graduate of the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine in Cleveland and now an assistant professor at the Case Western Reserve School of Dental Medicine and a lecturer at Harvard School of Dental Medicine. He has studied the narwhal with indigenous experts on the animal for two decades.
The HoloLens project was bolstered by a grant from the National Science Foundation in 2017.
Nweeia and Erin Henninger, executive director of Case Western Reserve’s Interactive Commons, said it was critical to include the Inuit understanding of the narwhal.
“Any venture of science occurs in an environment where people who live with animals know them better than you ever will,” Nweeia said. “The inclusion of the Inuit stories and language is our homage to say ‘Thank-you,’ and a humble acknowledgement that we don’t know it all.”