The Swiss Museum of Transport, (Verkehrshaus der Schweiz), is a fascinating and exciting place of discovery. Thanks to its original artifacts from the history of Swiss transport and shipping, it is the most visited museum in Switzerland. The 160-year-old Rigi is regarded as the oldest surviving flush-deck side-wheel paddle steamer in the world and is also the oldest surviving means of motorized transport in Switzerland. Today, only the hull remains to bear witness to its interesting and meaningful history. A great deal of imagination is required to picture this paddleboat, built in 1848, in its prime as a cargo steamer and, later, a pleasure cruiser (from 1863 onwards, it carried passengers). Thanks to HoloLens and mixed reality, for the first time the Museum is now able to tell the story of this boat in visual episodes using the ship itself.
The history of the Rigi makes for a rollicking ride. Originally, this paddle steamer was used to ferry goods between Lucerne and Flüelen, an important leg of the European trade route that ran from Basle to Milan. It played an important role in the mechanization of the Alps. In the tourism industry, the SS Rigi also made history. In 1863, it transported guests on Thomas Cook’s first guided tour through the Swiss Alps.
Resurrecting the SS Rigi
Mixed reality is a term that was introduced along with the Microsoft HoloLens. The new term indicates, it is about more than simple “augmentation”. It is an extension of the real world using three-dimensional objects and knowledge of the spatial conditions. Mixed reality allows museums to “tell” and visualize different stories based on the item itself. This allows visitors to actually glimpse the past. It is an impressive experience to stand in front of the great, antique hull and, seconds later, to see what the boat looked like 160, 100 or 80 years ago, full-scale, to the accompaniment of an acoustical backdrop from each era. Even the interior of the boat can be viewed and is rendered accessible by animations – for instance, one that shows the boat’s propulsion method.
Together with Netcetera, the Museum has developed a showcase that incorporates the Rigi. The result is an impressive demonstration of the potential of mixed reality solutions. The combination of historical objects and state-of-the-art technology allows visitors to enjoy a realistic and exciting presentation of history. Further remarkable facts:
- The size of the object works: this is probably one of the first use cases in the world involving HoloLens and a length of thirty meters.
- The display is accurate: overlaying the actual object with additional models (different generations) has been successfully implemented.
- Never mind the weather (outdoor use): in sunshine and in rain, we found ways to make the experience a reality, without having to compromise.
We see this having great potential for an enhanced visitor experience in the museum. Jacqueline Schleier, Director of Digital Strategy at the Lucerne Museum of Transport, confirms: “When I first saw the SS Rigi in all its old splendor, I was simply overwhelmed. I realized immediately: this has great potential for the museum in the future and our visitors will be thrilled.”