From July 17th to July 22nd, the sixth edition of the international XR&AI Summer School 2023 took place in Matera, Italy, at the “Casa delle Tecnologie” (Home of Technology). The school saw active participation from students and researchers representing diverse academic backgrounds from around the world.
The event was organized by Materahub, headquartered in Matera, a partner of the EU-funded project ReInHerit, in close collaboration with another Italian partner, the University of Florence. Throughout the week, speakers and experts engaged with 40 students and researchers, each possessing unique educational content and skills, hailing from various international countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, the Netherlands, Spain, and Italy.
Marco Bertini and Paolo Mazzanti, from the University of Florence, specifically from the Department of Media Integration and Communication, delivered an intriguing lecture on ‘Innovative and sustainable approaches for user engagement and digital interaction with cultural heritage.’ They shared the toolkit and the results obtained from user engagement studies conducted within the scope of the H2020 ReInHerit project. Adopting a sustainable, user-centered, enjoyable, and playful approach proved pivotal in motivating the students in their projects.
Participants were encouraged to use, test, and explore the toolkit in an interdisciplinary manner, particularly emphasizing the linkage between technological and cultural sectors. During the creative Hackathon, the proposals for ReInherit centered around two main themes: ‘Gamification and playful engagement’ and ‘Smart Interaction and digital contents.’ The diverse training of the participants spanned various disciplines such as Robotics, Serious Games, Artificial Intelligence and Extended Reality, Digital Humanities, Interaction Design, and Museum and Cultural Heritage Studies.
Furthermore, young PhD students collaborated in an interdisciplinary fashion on the ReInherit web apps, namely Strike-a-Pose / Face-Fit and SmartLens / VIOLA Multimedia Chatbot, utilizing open-source codes shared by the Digital Hub. This co-creation process led to new technological developments for apps and user interaction scenarios, enhancing engagement, inclusivity, and introducing new design features. The Strike-a-Pose 2.0 project proposal was recognized as the best, evaluated based on criteria of coherence, originality and innovation, technological quality, and communication skills.
To test the apps in real contexts, the participants visited significant local museums. Experts in the development of AI-based applications in museums were invited to mentor the participants’ work and engage in interviews and discussions in the presence of the local community and cultural stakeholders.
Thus, Matera reaffirmed itself as a vibrant center for research and education, capable of embracing and promoting emerging technologies for the enhancement of its tangible and intangible cultural heritage.
Raffaele Vitulli from Cluster Basilicata Creativa, co-organizer of the school along with other partners, concluded “Matera needs to test and apply emerging technologies to streamline the management and valorization of its Sassi and its immense cultural heritage.”
The XR&AI Summer School 2023 was realised in collaboration with Sicura – Casa delle Tecnologie Emergenti – L’Aquila, the Ministry of Enterprise and Made in Italy, the Sicura – Casa delle Tecnologie Emergenti – L’Aquila Emergenti Matera, and with the support of the University of Basilicata, the University of Salento, the Università Politecnica delle Marche, the University of Naples Federico II – International Students, the Università degli Studi di Firenze (MICC), the CNR-ISPC, Basilicata Creativa, materahub, the EDIH – Heritage Smart Lab, the ‘ReInHerit’ project (Horizon 2020 programme), XRtech, Deep Reality, the Fund for Development and Cohesion, Geomatics Applications Processing, the Italian Association in Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning.