Google XYFI: Virtual Pilgrimage

October 29, 2019

Role(s): Museum Technology LeadThe British Museum

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In 2017, the British Museum partnered with Google’s Creative Lab (based in Sydney, Australia) to work on an immersive digital experience focused on a single piece of the world revered Buddhist site of the Great Shrine of Amaravati.

This experience used projection, sonification and human computer interaction methodologies to blend together an experience built upon bring your own device principles (BYOD), which enabled the public to unpack in depth information about the focal point of the gallery. In just under 3 months, over 100,000 people visited this single gallery installation bringing with it a wide array of lessons for technologists engaged with in gallery digital works.

The source code for this project was released under an open licence by Google on GitHub and the 3D model generated was released on SketchFab and was download ready for people to reproduce in their own homes.

A wall projection with activated actor
A wall projection with activated actor
XYFI rear wall projection with activated hotspot
XYFI rear wall projection with activated hotspot
XYFI rear wall projection with activated hotspot
XYFI rear wall projection with activated hotspot

What came after XYFI?

This was the first part of the journey for the British Museum’s collection of architectural fragments of this shrine to be reinstalled in its own dedicated gallery, with an associated digital reconstruction built by Soluis Heritage (Glasgow).

The video of this installation piece can be found on Vimeo and shows off the magic of Steve Colmer and team at Soluis Heritage.

This reconstruction is a simple video tour of the site, built with architectural modelling and incorporating 3D models created at short notice using photogrammetry (with no regard for health and safety of the author).

Associated 3D models

All of these 3D models can be recreated by any one with the appropriate software, as their source data has been released openly under creative commons licence, and they are all available on Sketchfab, some with annotations encoding the scholarly knowledge of Dr Imma Ramos and Dr Richard Blurton.

People I worked with

  • Neil Wilkin
  • Holly Wright
  • Tea Uglow
  • Kirstin Sillitoe
  • Julie Carr
  • Jonny Richards
  • Jude Osborne
  • Imma Ramos

Institutional Partners

  • Google Creative Lab

Documents and files


  • Google
  • Asahi Shimbun Foundation

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