Posted on February 11, 2016 by Scot Allen
On January 22, the student's in the Historical Preservation class presented their scanning work of Kaniakapupu--the famed ruins of Kamehameha III's summer home--to an audience at the University of Hawaii's virtual reality center.
Senior Samantha Komiyama '16 reflected on the experience in a post to her class Instagram account. "All guests felt very welcomed and interested in the subject, and were eager to learn about the new technology around them," she wrote. "I enjoyed conversing with new people as they asked me questions and I replied with answers. There was laughter, curiosity, and awe in every conversation, and I am sure to not forget this memorable experience."
UH hosted the event in Laboratory for Advanced visualization and Applications (LAVA) lab, a virtual reality center under construction. The "open house" style of the event allowed participants to learn in small groups at several student-run stations. One station run by Leilani Sill's eighth grade class showed their 360-degree video footage of the field trips during which the high school students scanned Kaniakapupu. Guests used Mid-Pacific's Samsung VR gear headset to watch the field trip in 3D. What they saw in the headset astounded: overwhelming green trees, brilliant blue sky, students moving around the grounds with the LiDAR scanner. It was like being there.
Senior Krislyn Miyagawa ('16) researched Kaniakapupu and discovered it is the only remaining structure in the world associated with Kamehameha III. "Built in 1845, Kaniakapupu was Kamehameha's summer home, a place where he held important meetings. The most notable gathering at Kaniakapupu was the 1847 Restoration Day luau for 12,000 people. Before dinner, guests were entertained with spear throwing, lua (art of bone breaking), and hakoko (wrestling). During the gathering women chanted meles in honor of Kamehameha III."
"One of the reasons the students are passionate about this project is because they want future visitors to leave the physical site untouched and see the place virtually instead," said Ms. Calabro, the teacher of Historic Preservation scanning class.
Kaniakapupu is located on a restricted watershed that requires permits to visit. Unfortunately, many unpermitted hikers trample Kaniakapupu each year, further degrading the site. Students in Ms. Calabro's class reached out to Josh Noga the Sierra Club who helped them obtain permits to visit the ruins and served as their guides on the field trip. After about fifteen minutes of hiking from the road, Kahu Davis, Mid-Pacific's chaplain, lead the students in an oli (chant) to enter the sacred space and then blessed the students in their work. They hustled, taking twenty seven scans over the course of two days.
However, the majority of the work happened back on campus as the students worked for weeks to stitch all of their scans together and do the necessary editing work. "There are no flat surfaces up there," said Calabro, explaining the complexity of the work. "The software prefers flat surfaces, so going off a lot of trees and grass and a structure that is rubble was hard."
On presentation day, the polished Kaniakapupu scan shown brightly out of the LAVA lab's unique 3D display. "As we presented the Kaniakapupu scan, I felt proud and connected as a class, as this was defined key an unforgettable moment," said Samantha Komiyama '16. "The best aspect of our work was definitely the 3D panel television, as it added an extra flare to what we were presenting. It gave texture and life to the scan, and made it feel like we were actually there looking at Kaniakapupu." Visitors donned 3D glasses to get the complete experience.
Currently, the scanning files live on Mid-Pacific servers, but the students are in search of a long-term host. "We are looking for a final resting place because this is important Hawaiian history of a sacred site that should be available to the public," said Ms. Calabro. "We did the preservation work and it was about practicing the craft and learning the history, but the students always intended to gift it to an appropriate entity that would protect and promote the history of it. We look forward to finding a group we can gift it to."
In the meantime, the ruins of Kamehameha III's summer home continue to erode, but its digital image remains pristine forever.
By Laura Davis