Cannes Lions


ADA, New York / MICROSOFT / 2020

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Relief maps are 3-D topographic maps and were considered advanced military technology when they were used by the likes of Napoleon Bonaparte. The relief map of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Mont-Saint-Michel is a treasured 300-year-old artifact that until this exhibit, had never been viewed outside the Musée des Plans-Reliefs in Paris. Our exhibition, Mont-Saint-Michel: Digital Perspectives on the Model, part of Microsoft’s AI for Cultural Heritage initiative and housed at the Museum of History & Industry in Seattle, afforded visitors the chance to view the model in person, and explore in mixed reality via HoloLens 2 the cathedral and this vital piece of French heritage as it stands today. Budget total: $750,000.00.


Working with Microsoft’s AI for Cultural Heritage program, in an effort to not just educate, but stimulate, we used the new HoloLens 2 mixed reality headset to transport visitors at Seattle’s Museum of History & Industry to Brittany, France in Mont-Saint-Michel: Digital Perspectives on the Model. The use of HoloLens 2 allowed guests to experience a sort of living history, exploring the UNESCO World Heritage site sans passport, and examining in awesome detail the 300-year-old “relief map” of Mont-Saint-Michel, which was displayed on-site in Seattle. While the physical object is far too fragile to be handled, the digital model begged guests to engage, and explore the priceless artifact for themselves. Mixed reality allowed for an effortless transfer between physical model and holographic cathedral, immersing visitors in French culture.


To bring visitors into this Roman-Gothic abbey and related 17th Century relief map, we relied on a unique network of advanced technologies. We first had to document the cathedral and its surroundings as they are today, via Iconem, a drone-based volumetric capture studio based in France. Using AI and custom algorithms, they were able to build computer-generated images to recreate Mont-Saint-Michel as it evolved from its founding in the 8th Century to the present. Holoforge then built a tour of the cathedral and its model in mixed reality, using the HoloLens 2 headset; holograms of the abbey became visible in AR over the physical diorama in the exhibition space. Finally, we translated the mixed reality experience from French to English, and transported the delicate relief map from Paris’ Musée des Plans-Reliefs to Seattle’s Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) and designed a custom vitrine to house it. To create a truly multi-sensory experience there, we designed a gallery at MOHAI to evoke a cathedral: installing backlit archways, custom wooden furniture (including benches and kiosks to house electronics) that conjure the minimalism of monks’ cells, and a bespoke soundtrack that brings to mind choral arrangements from the 16th and 17th Centuries. Each element helped create the perfect setting for Americans — and our target of tech-forward history buffs and fans of French heritage — to experience this 300-year-old artifact outside of France for the first time ever. The exhibit was open to the public at MOHAI from November 23, 2019 - January 26, 2020, welcoming more than 5,000 patrons in that time.


Mont-Saint-Michel: Digital Perspectives on the Model remained sold out for the duration of its installation with over 5,000 visitors in its two-month exhibition at MOHAI, making it one of the most popular HoloLens and MOHAI experiences to date. This was also the public’s first chance to explore the new HoloLens 2 headsets, which were just starting to ship commercially when the exhibition launched.

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