The Institute of Pure and Applied Mathematics (IMPA), one of the most important Brazilian research centers, and The Moreira Salles Institute (IMS), holder of one of the most relevant cultural collections of Brazil, signed a research agreement aiming IMS’s photographic heritage. Two institutes apparently of such a distinct nature, but which embraced the challenge of bridging research and development in Mathematics, Design and Culture. I hope this partnership illustrates how productive and valuable interdisciplinary and collaborative knowledge can be! I feel privileged to contribute as a designer and researcher on this project! Hands on!
The article that follows has been translated from IMPA’s website (original article in Pt)
IMPA and IMS team up with focus on photographic heritage
Imagine strolling down a Rue de l’Ouvidor filled with perfumeries, shop windows with the latest fashion in Paris […] as registered by Marc Ferrez in 1890. Thanks to a partnership with IMPA, new forms of enjoyment of the invaluable photographic collection of Instituto Moreira Salles (IMS) will emerge, as, perhaps, immersive experiences in iconic spaces of the history of Rio de Janeiro.
Renowned in the areas in which they act, IMPA and IMS signed on Monday (25) a collaborative research term, a promising step that will show how productive and valuable the intersection between institutes that are dedicated to Mathematics and the Culture.
The collaboration will be led by Visgraf, the Vision and Computer Graphics Laboratory of IMPA – created in 1989, with ample expertise in the field and a series of national and international partnerships – and IMS Photography Coordination.
With 2 million images, the collection brings together one of the most important collections of the 19th century in Brazil, including that of the pioneer Marc Ferrez (1843-1923), the main photographer of the period. IMS also has relevant collections from almost the entire 20th century and saves no effort to incorporate records from the current century.
The IMPA general director, Marcelo Viana, praised the convergence between the two institutes. The Visgraf coordinator, Luiz Velho, considered the partnership a way to validate and transfer to the society the work developed at IMPA: “It’s a way of empowering the culture of Brazil. The IMS collection is invaluable and, frankly, we can do unprecedented things” he said, estimating that the collaborative agreement would be long-term.
The IMS executive director, Flávio Pinheiro, observed that faced with the massive collection of the institution, it is inexorable to think about the impact caused by the new technologies: “It’s a huge job and a path that we needed to break through. I think georeferencing photographies is a start, something important, but there are unsuspected things ahead, such as what artificial intelligence and machine learning can do with images.”
Platform allows immersive experience
Dedicated to computational mathematics applied to media, Visgraf conducts research and development in several fields, such as visualization and image processing, animation and multimedia and virtual and augmented reality, with projects that go through the elaboration of audiovisual narratives, reality systems virtual, data monitoring and visualization platforms, among others.
For those who still wonder the connection between Mathematics and photography, it is worth knowing that algorithms can be developed, for example, to extract information from images. Techniques can allow computers to recognize faces or objects in large-scale visual databases, such as IMS photographic collection.
“Essentially, you have a mathematical model that is an abstraction of representations of some sort, and everything revolves around that. The area where we work at Visgraf goes from very technical things, like super-resolution that takes an image and enlarges it beyond the limit the photo was captured by the equipment, to image analyses and understanding. A photo has metadata that can be referenced”, noted Velho.
Under the agreement, IMPA lent to IMS a unique device in Brazil, developed by Google, which combines several applications for viewing content. The Liquid Galaxy is a platform consisting of screens with an angle of about 180 degrees that allow a panoramic view of videos and photos, enabling interactive tours in an immersive 3D environment. It will be used in research and demonstrations, said Velho.
About the equipment, Sergio Burgi, coordinator of IMS photography, highlighted the enormous potential a platform has when it integrates several databases, such as photographs and cartographies, among others. “There are many possibilities that are not yet effective in the collections. It’s an absurdly new challenge in the field of information processing conciliating intellectual and technical metadata”, he emphasized.
The management of the partnership will be accompanied by Visgraf’s assistant researcher, Julia Giannella, and the IMS’s technical assistant, Bruno Buccalon. With the outstanding IMS collection and IMPA resources, the collaboration will be long and productive, esteem Velho: “It will work very well and with scientific rigor. I think we are in a holistic moment of humanity, of integration of Exact and Social sciences. This type of partnership we are doing here is innovative. The sky is the limit”, concluded the coordinator of Visgraf, about the results of the agreement.