Rene – Hi, welcome back to Meta Minutes, your bite-sized pieces of the metaverse. My name is Rene from Valorem Reply and today we're going to talk about building metaverse apps for cultural heritage. And for this, I'm very honored to have a special expert guest and also a fellow mixed reality MVP today, Zaid Zaim. Hi Zaid, welcome to the show, how are you today?

Zaid – Hello Rene! Thank you so much for the invitation. Very happy to be here. I'm doing great.

Rene - Awesome! Well, thanks for agreeing to be part of this and I'm looking really forward to talk with you about your unique expertise but before we dive into these questions can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background as it relates to the metaverse and you know all the related fields.

Zaid - Sounds amazing! So, yeah, I'm Zaid. I am originally from Syria. I came to Germany in 2013 due to war in my country. I came here with a big passion for technology and started working on my tech skills, visiting various courses and schools in Berlin to grow my tech skills in this area and I came across mixed reality around 2017 and I saw a huge potential in this by meeting a lot of experts going to conferences, meetups, you name it and I saw big potential in this space and these people who I met really passed their passion and enthusiasm around mixed reality to me and then when I started working on this more on my developing skills in the mixed reality space, I started also again mostly paying back to the community sharing my knowledge around mixed reality, AR and VR and this is how basically I got the MVP award since two years. And parallel to that I've been using mixed reality to bring cultural heritage back to life given the fact that I'm from Syria and in Syria there are a lot of cultural heritage cities that got systematically destroyed. So using technologies like the HoloLens and mixed reality, we are bringing these ancient cities back to life. So this is a little bit of my personal background and on a professional base I work at a tech company or a metaverse agency here in Germany. It's called Hololux, it's driven by also friend and fellow MVP Christian Glessner. We've been specializing since last year, basically doing a lot of activities in the metaverse. So things like doing after parties, getting people basically having tangible experience what the metaverse is using platforms like Altspace VR, having some social interactions, social activities in times where this was not possible anymore in terms of COVID and that's me and what this is, what I do in a nutshell. And I have a really cool role. So I'm a mixed reality catalyst. So, basically sharing again the excitement about the mixed reality and metaverse space with our friends, customers and clients to give them a tangible experience what is possible in this space.

Rene – Awesome. Great to hear all about your background and so let's talk about some of what you already alluded to in a second question but my first question is what I typically ask like everyone on Meta Minutes because and like every guest typically has a different definition but let's start with this simple but also complex question, what is the metaverse for you and where do you see the potential?

Zaid - So to me personally, the metaverse is, as you just mentioned, so nowadays everyone creates his own definition of the metaverse or basically people create their experience on the metaverse or their definition on the metaverse based on the experiences they made. So until today my personal experiences in the metaverse were really the things that I was doing engaged with my friend Christian and Hololux. So through doing social activities and After parties in Altspace for example, so to me currently the metaverse is a place where we can, let's say, bring people together, have different social activities, interactions, bringing this social life back. If that's on an entertainment level, on a business level or industrial level, so a lot of people also speak about the metaverse of these virtual environments, virtual worlds. So some people also say that, okay each tech company is building its own metaverse platforms like Facebook Meta, Microsoft with mesh for teams. So I'm really excited about this fact. For example, that in the future you would be able to jump from, I don't know, platforms like mesh for teams into the Facebook metaverse. So these things that excite me a lot, so would support bringing potentially a lot of people together into one place so others also say that the metaverse is the next generation of the internet. Basically, so in the future, we won't be able or we won't be having like these 2D internet websites, but we will be entering these virtual environments and doing our shopping. Let's say for example in immersive through immersive 3Dexperiences. This is to me is what is metaverse and I really love the fact that or the comparison again with the worldwide web. So in the past or today we build websites using, I don'tknow, tools like HTML or CSS and JavaScript and today we built the metaverse basically with or metaverse or mixed reality experiences with tools like mrtk and gaming engines to enable these immersive 3D experiences.

Rene – Awesome. That makes a lot of sense but let's talk about what you're already alluding to, in the introduction about the, you know, world heritage and you have been working on a project to preserve the UNESCO world heritage site in Palmyra in Syria with mixed reality. Why did you choose this project and what is it about?

Zaid – Okay. So as mentioned in at the beginning, I'm personally from Syria. I had the chance to visit Palmyra. Palmyra is an ancient Roman city in Syria that dates more than 4000 years and in Syria there is there has been war since 2011 and the war has destroyed the a lot of Syria's cultural heritage sites. One of them is the Palmyra and when I came here to Germany, I had a really big motivation one day, thinking, okay how can I basically merge the personal experiences I made with the fact that I'm from Syria, that I visited the ancient city of Palmyra, experienced as a child the beauty of the Monuments, the history of the city, connecting with the people in there, talking with the locals, these memories I brought these with me and when I started getting into the mixed reality space, I had some of the motivation to see how can I connect these two pillars together. So my personal experience with mixed reality then came to the point to start using mixed reality to bring cultural sites back to life, beginning first with Palmyra in Syria. And of course, one of the most frequent questions I get is, is it only Palmyra that you're going to specialize in, or are there any more cities that you will be visualizing in the future? So, of course, the project is expandable and more cities could be visualized in the future. So that project also, one on this project, we also be able to, let's say form a mini community in the last few years so getting people from around the world who are interested in the topic of cultural heritage preservation and mixed reality and with that we were able to grow the project together and one of my very first presentations of the project was at TedX Munich, back in 2019 and this throwing also a live demo with the hololens on the stage and seeing the excitement of the people on that until today motivates me to continue on this hobby project.

Rene – Awesome. That's really good. Is there also a way for folks to reach out if they have questions about it?

Zaid - Of course. So please feel free to ping me on LinkedIn, that's the channel where I'm mostly active on. I'll be more than happy to answer your questions on that and one of the coolest facts regarding the project is basically that recently we connected with the Middle Eastern Museum in Berlin, the so-called Vorderasiatisches Museum and we are currently discussing potential opportunities where we can bring the HoloLens technology into the museum and at the same time try out the Palmyra project in the first stage and see how mixed reality could be potentially in the next few months, in the next few years could be actively applied in the museums. So yeah, a lot of things happening in on this end.

Rene - Oh I love this. Especially like preserving cultural heritage. It's really an important thing as like you know all past and the culture that has been done by all the generations before us. There are so many things out there and it's really unfortunate that some idiots are destroying it and so it's great if we can preserve them and bring them back through different mechanisms like mixed reality. But I also think it's not just for preserving but also bringing these cultural sides to many more people in the world. You don't have to travel, for example, there's a lot of benefits if you see it with your own eyes, it's still a different piece but you know exactly yeah getting as close as you can get with mixed reality is at least getting closer than just watching photos and videos.

Zaid - Exactly and today's technology serves opportunity so as if you are there or you get these monuments into your living room or into a presentation area that you are in. I would like to share with you here, recently I also was able to win HoloLux to support me creating one of Palmyra's monuments, to bring them into the metaverse. So, we were at the beginning only doing this as a mixed reality experience in the Hololens and now the Hololux team supported me in getting the Roman Theater of Palmyra into Altspace. So to provide again, to reach out a wider world wide audience, bringing them into virtual reality basically, having a metaverse experience on Palmyra.

Rene -This is great. So let us know once it's launched in Altspace and we can visit Palmyra there. Awesome. Well let's talk about how you actually build it and so how did you build that experience and what is the path you would recommend for people that want to get started with mixed reality and general makeovers app development?

Zaid – So, as a foundation for that we use the MRTK, the mixed reality tool kit and Unity 3D as a game engine. Today when we start thinking so MRTK is even in its third generation you know and with that it enables developers to bring all their apps or a lot of their projects going across platform. So this was one of the biggest pains basically back in the days where you had to develop or to use dedicated sdks, to bring your project to individual XR devices and with that it is opening to us a wide spectrum on opportunities. So thinking of the recent coming XR devices, when we start thinking, okay we want you to have a instead of a mixed reality experience like a VR experience, so it's really easy doing this today using frameworks and dev tools like MRTK3.

Rene - Gotcha and what would you recommend for starters, where they can get started? What's the best path into this?

Zaid -To me personally it was like a Kickstart in, was always basically going to meet ups, going to hackathons, to going to conferences, because there you basically meet like-minded people you know, and who give you I don't know a boost or a push to get further diving into the space. Because sometimes you really need this push to start basically digging and looking to start, to jumping into a new area. So this is something that really supported me. And recently one of your guests was Fabian. So he's one of my best friends and he is one of the people who got me into the mixed reality space back in the days. Basically I met Fabian in a hackathon here in Berlin and that time I really had no clue what is mixed reality but I came together with Fabian in a team and then I saw his excitement and enthusiasm around mixed reality and he was able to share this with me and basically connecting with such experts who motivate you is a gamechanger and then there are a lot of resources that you can go across in the internet to basically start building your skills and always one of my giveaways or learnings is basically if you know something or if you have been able to build a foundation in a certain area start giving back something to the community. Because with that you can make a difference.

Rene - I fully agree. That's why we're MVPs, right? We're loving sharing your knowledge and being part of the community. Fortunately, by Microsoft, they're honoring this with the MVP award, so this is great. But yeah, I mean, Fabian, a great guy and if you have not seen the episode with Fabian, it's season two of Meta Minutes episode 7, where we talk with Fabian about a customer journey into mixed reality and it was also a fantastic chat. Well Zaid, thank you so much for joining us today. We're already at the end of our short show here. Thank you so much for sharing your insights and the work you're doing is really impactful. You know, like I said, preserving cultural heritage and also making it available to many more people is really something very good and again thank you so much. Very much appreciate it.

Zaid - Thank you so much for the invitation, Rene. Great pleasure!

Rene - And thanks everyone for joining us for yet another episode of Meta Minutes, your bite-sized pieces of the metaverse. Watch our blog, follow our social media channels, subscribe to our YouTube and to hear all about the next upcoming episodes, and of course, visit our website to watch all the previous episodes in one nice list. Take care and see you soon in the metaverse.

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