Summer Spotlight: Professor Dengke Chen

Building on the project he completed last summer, Professor Dengke Chen will be traveling to China for a month over the 2018 summer semester to study Han and Dong architecture.

Professor Chen developed an augmented reality game last semester that allows users to interact with architecture built by the Miao people. He will expand the AR experience to include buildings made by the Han and Dong people through research conducted this summer.

A screenshot from Chen’s previous project

“The Dong are a minority group located in the south of China,” Chen explained. He added that there are also subgroups of the Dong in the South Asian countries of Taiwan, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Chen will be studying their unique building style, of which he explained the significance:

“They are famous for their architectural skills. They don’t use any metal, just a frame and wood. One piece of wood connects with another, making it very stable. In that area there are a lot of earthquakes. The design keeps the buildings from being destroyed.”

Curious? Give ‘Dougong System” a Google. It’s like building with Lincoln Logs on a far more sophisticated scale.

Chen will also spend time researching Han architecture. “The Han people are the Chinese majority,” Chen explained, adding “they built all the royal palaces and temples, which signify modernity, so people pay more attention to their architecture.” Chen noted that as the majority people group, the Han have the means to preserve their architecture.

Behind Chen’s project is a meaningful purpose. As he put it, “the outcome of this is I will create an augmented reality game tablet system for the younger generation.” Many young Chinese people now move to big cities to land higher-paying jobs and access the better living conditions there. Chen noted that “modern culture is a cultural shock.” The traditional transfer of the cultural heritage would be passed down by each generation as “fathers teach their sons,” but with a generation relocating, that system is breaking down.

Chen explained “I’m not trying to change people. I just want to refresh what their ancestors have left for them, especially their cultural heritages.” The interactive game allows users to see the architecture from many angles, with the x, y, and z axises of the 3D model of a building connected to a tracking image. For example, Chen plans to show “how they use the wood to put the frames together” on a model of a Dong structure. The game will be accessible through Android devices.

“Because its entirely architecture, children will not be interested,” Chen said. “When you make it into a game, it is much fun for them to play with.” “In the final product,” he said, “you’ll be able to interact with the model and choose which element you want to see.” Professor Chen’s work is award-winning, and we can’t wait to see what he does next!

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