Bringing museums to art lovers through virtual reality wins grad student Innovation Forum's top prize

Jan. 10, 2023

A system for allowing visitors to take virtual tours of museums worldwide won first prize at the 17th annual Innovation Forum on December 14.

MuseumVerse, a team that includes ECE graduate student Shruti Sharma, presented a proposal to use virtual reality technology to allow small museums and cultural organizations the ability to reach worldwide audiences. The technology allows visitors to experience museums and works of art in ways that are not readily possible in typical presentations online. The presenters also said they planned to focus on smaller venues that did not have access to the technology available to large museums and cultural centers. Sharma, who is co-advised by Antoine Kahn, worked on the project with three graduate students in art and archaeology: Mengge Cao, Iheanyi Onwuegbucha and Michael Zhang.

The Innovation Forum, conducted by the Keller Center for Innovation in Engineering Education, offers a showcase for Princeton faculty, researchers, and graduate students to present innovations that promise to deliver commercial, cultural and societal impact. Presentations are made in two divisions representing STEM fields and the humanities & social sciences. Top presentations divide $60,000 in seed funding with the top winners securing $15,000 in each division.

The MuseumVerse team took the top prize in the humanities and social science category. The presenters said the goal is to use pioneering virtual reality and data-capturing processes to showcase the niche collection and local identities of small, underfunded art and cultural institutions and the work of emerging artists.

This year’s forum featured a conversation between the Keller Center's Director Naveen Verma, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Vice Dean of Innovation Craig Arnold. Arnold, like Verma, a founder of a tech startup, said his mission as Vice Dean is to help build bridges across campus and to smooth the way for Princeton innovators to deliver impact to the world.

"We need to build bridges. We need to connect. One thing about innovation that's so critical to our mission as a university is how we connect with the world. You know, it's about clearing the debris from the roads, filling in the potholes, and creating a superhighway so that our colleagues can excel," said Arnold, the Susan Dod Brown Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

Other speakers included Nena Golubovic and Manish Bhardwaj, directors of the Keller Center's newest initiative, the Design for Innovation Program. Bhardwaj, the co-founder Innovators in Health, an organization that delivers healthcare to the rural poor in India, reminded the audience of how the humanities can enrich peoples’ concept of innovation and how a humanistic point of view is fundamental in opening new channels and new ways of thinking. He said he hoped the Forum and his program help support faculty to develop their ideas and translate them into a real-world blueprint for impact. "Let's figure out what we can forge out of this intersection," said Bhardwaj.

The event wrapped up with closing remarks from Andrea Goldsmith, the Dean of Engineering and Applied Science. She spoke of how the presenters embodied the innovative nature and spirit she hopes to foster in her role as Dean and how this event and the solution designs showcased at the Forum are 'how Princeton can make its unique mark to benefit humanity.'

The 2022 Innovation Forum winners


First Place, PureLi, $15,000

Second Place, FLO-SSEMBLY, $10,000

Third Place, Magnetic Reconnection Plasma Thruster, $5,000


First Place, MuseumVerse, $15,000

Second Place, Split

MoVa, $7,500

Project Leadership, $7,500