How to escape to the West under the Berlin Wall

How to escape to the West under the Berlin Wall

Published on 20.09.2018

Textbooks repel that smell. Smell once and zack you feel for the touch of a second back in the classroom. The time in which you fought your way through the tome about the division of Germany, for example. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have presented us with a way to experience the substance in a completely new way. And we’ll show you this one, of course.

WELT met the tinkerers from the MIT Media Lab during the “Signal & Noise” workshop in Berlin on 17 August. A total of 48 students from 16 countries worked for a week on five projects that were to push the boundaries of science – in an old church of all places.

One of these projects brought the division of Germany to life. Offers itself at a workshop in Berlin yes and five contemporary witnesses shoveled free time for an interview, twelve hours of video material were created.

Mit of the 3D camera Matterport people and rooms were measured in order to translate our real world into virtual reality with 3D models.

Dr. Scott Greenwald from the MIT Media Lab explains the advantage: “In the field of virtual reality documentaries, 3D/360-degree technology is still often used today. This results in films that look very realistic, but only allow viewing from a certain position without the user being able to move freely in space.“

In this project, we have deliberately chosen techniques that allow an application in which to move.

Greenwald knows of no other project in which the three elements volumetric videos, realistic 3D images of rooms, and 3D modeling were brought together in the context of a documentary. But let’s get to the escape now:

The virtual reality experience consists of three scenes, based on the stories of Ralf Kabisch, an escape helper.

Let’s go!

I. You are standing opposite the escape helper, in the stairwell of Bernauer Straße 97 in Berlin.

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There used to be an empty bakery in this place. And it was from this bakery that Ralph Kabisch helped dig a wall tunnel into the western part of Strelitzer Straße 55: most GDR citizens, 57 in all, were able to reach freedom via Tunnel 57. While the escapee reports on this, we are virtually in the place where the story happened.

The image of Ralph Kabisch is not full of detail, but the dog is buried somewhere else. One is impressed by the hallway with its details, one looks at the crumbling wallpaper. The contemporary witness is quickly forgotten – so it happens to me.

II. In the next scene I don’t crawl through any tunnel.

Three times you can guess by which. It corresponds exactly to the scale of Tunnel 57 in Bernauer Straße.

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I do what Scott Greenwald wants to see: I duck. After all, otherwise I do not fit through the tunnel. I also saw everyone else crawling in this scene.

This shows that virtual reality is understood intuitively.

Scott is relieved. Because if the scene manages without instruction, the illusion is convincing.

III. In a minimalist 3D model of the area around Potsdamer Platz, Ralf Kabisch describes what he met here:

After the fall of the Wall, GDR cars also drove in the West. This brought the characteristic smell of the trabis to places such as Potsdamer Platz or Kurfürstendamm. “It smelled like two-stroke exhaust; that sweetish exhaust stench.“

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There were trabis on the Ku’damm. I was in tears.

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The virtual reality experiences will continue to be used. “The whole team, which was actually put together just for the workshop, “explains Scott,” is very excited about the project and we would like to continue working on it together. One possible goal is that the project could be used as an installation in a museum – for example, on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. “This is on November 9, 2019. Until then, the team can still do a lot of rework.

At the end of the workshop, the question remains: Should we rather learn with virtual reality in the future?

In virtual reality, we can touch and handle the learning material. Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, loves this approach:

We learn much better when we do something about it.

The only question is whether you will learn more if you not only listen to the eyewitness, but also get him from all sides.

And what do you think it brings to crawl through the virtual tunnel? Should virtual reality at least partially replace the tomes at schools, training companies and universities?

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