Project Case

November 1, 2023

Bringing ghosts back to life: strengthening heritage through XR technology

FabCafe Bangkok expands the possibilities of Thai heritage and creative industries through an innovative augmented experience

FabCafe Global Editorial Team

Utilizing technology to preserve cultural heritage is an ongoing endeavor. In Southeast Asia in particular, the already-strong creative sector has begun to look towards the consistently innovative developments in XR (extended reality) technology as a new form of expression, opening up new marketplaces and avenues to preserve cultural heritage in return. To effectively approach this opportunity, UNESCO has been proactively supporting local initiatives in the Mekong region that aim to strengthen the digital skills of cultural and creative entrepreneurs. 

By using their own smartphones, users can enjoy a variety of XR experiences. The Thai Ghost project used this technology to introduce a beloved part of Thai heritage to a new audience and preserve the art form for generations to come.

Consistently at the forefront of advancements in digital technology since 2015, FabCafe Bangkok and its XR-focused experiential community NEWVIEW collaborated with UNESCO this summer to introduce a cutting-edge approach that supports Thai culture, local businesses, and locally-based creators. The Thai Ghost XR project takes full advantage of the widespread digital literacy in Thailand in a new way that emphasizes intertwining creativity and culture. This project had comic artists’ work turned into an XR experience where participants could visit local businesses, read a Thai ghost comic in XR, and purchase limited edition goods from participating stores. 

Thai ghost comics have been a part of Thai culture for decades, with the height of their popularity lasting from the 1970s to the 1990s. These comics originally sold for just one baht, and at their peak approximately one million comics sold per day, making them a low-cost, accessible, and widely enjoyed media. As technology like smartphones became more widespread, such comics decreased in popularity as they competed with other media and many publishers have recently decided to stop distributing them. The horror comics, imbued at their core with Thai culture and folklore, are now going through a resurgence, with fans of the art form eager to share it with the next generation in new ways to protect it as a cultural property for years to come.

A participant uses their smartphone to view the “1 Baht Thai Ghost Comic” in XR as part of the Thai Ghost XR project. As heritage and technology are merged to create a new form of cultural expression, the FabCafe Bangkok team also implemented new business models alongside it to make it a sustainable and replicable way to preserve heritage.

The Thai Ghost XR project was one of several UNESCO-backed projects implemented by FabCafe Bangkok which sought to strengthen the digital competency of creatives and cultural workers and their ability to actively respond to ongoing changes in the cultural value chain. After conducting significant research, the team at FabCafe Bangkok was able to identify a path to connect XR technology with creative content and products. By bridging the past with the present, both local creators and businesses were able to benefit while participants gained a greater understanding of the cultural significance of Thai ghost comics and how XR technology works. In turn, this will also ensure that the cultural impact and significance of the comics will be able to be experienced and continued to be enjoyed by the younger generations for years to come.

The Thai Ghost XR project was one of the winning projects from a hackathon held as part of the Creative Digital Lab Project. Read more about it here.

Winners’ names: Arttakrit Jeenmahant, Songsak Supromphunt, Sanit Sudsakorn, Somruthai Ruangtrakul, and Warut Boonyakajorn

The Thai Ghost Comic XR project transported participants into the world of the “1 Baht Thai Ghost Comic” series as an experimental business prototype. By giving the comic digital presence by having participants use their smartphones to experience the comic through XR, the FabCafe Bangkok team was also able to incorporate an e-commerce model that allowed for in-app purchases. This unique model promoted Thai ghost comics as a cultural property while utilizing technology to stimulate tourism and create opportunities for local businesses.

The story unfolded throughout various predetermined locations where each chapter of the comic could be viewed. There were a total of eight different scenes–including the cover–that told the “1 Baht Thai Ghost Comic” story.

Each scene utilized distinct AR assets to effectively tell each chapter of the comic and immerse participants in the world’s storytelling and atmosphere.

While the main story was told via AR, participants were able to continue being immersed in the comic’s story even when they weren’t looking at their screens by using strategic and skillful set design.

The team at FabCafe Bangkok was able to help local creators find paths to market their work in the digital age by creating a digital space for Thai ghost comics. Creating ways for the next generation to enjoy Thai ghost comics is essential for the continued success and longevity of the medium as a cultural property. 

Pret, the central ghost featured in the “1 Baht Thai Ghost Comic” series, was drawn by local comic artists and given an XR form by local XR creators. The image shows Pret’s approximate scale and location when viewed in XR. Pret can be viewed through the app in any location and was widely acclaimed by the public.

Furthermore, by transforming ghosts into digital creative assets that can promote Thai identity on a global scale, it is possible to expand the comics’ market worldwide and across generations. Thai ghost comics’ characteristic visual representation of folklore and the narrative that takes place in the comics is a distinct and celebrated expression of Thai identity. Giving digital form to these aspects by fusing tradition with technology not only works to sustain the legacy and continued enjoyment of Thai ghost comics, but also opens doors to a wider audience, fostering a renewed appreciation for Thai cultural heritage and storytelling. 

By separating the comic into different chapters and creating tie-in goods, the project was able to showcase an innovative business model using XR technology. It was also able to showcase how the soft power of cultural properties could be leveraged to revitalize local tourism.

The comic was split into different chapters, with each chapter having to be purchased separately, and each chapter was only viewable in XR at certain predetermined locations. The team connected local businesses to the project by having them create tie-in collaboration goods. These were sold on the app as participants went through the story, and the app prompted them to buy items specific to each location and certain points in the story. This ensured that in addition to bringing foot traffic to the area, the project was also able to create direct profit for local businesses, doubling the revenue of participating stores.

Participants gather and purchase limited edition tie-in goods, such as tote bags, at a local business.

A wide range of participants took part in the project, ranging from nearby college students to foreign tourists, with nearly 400 participants over a three-day period. This caught the attention of influencers and the media alike, with over 30 media outlets featuring the project. In addition to the participants and businesses, the artist was also extremely satisfied with the project. Encouraged by the success, the FabCafe Bangkok and NEWVIEW teams are hoping for future opportunities to replicate the model and continue to expand on it. 

The team members from FabCafe Bangkok and the comic artists gathered for a group photo.

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  • Practical applications of extended reality technology in the creative industries sector
  • Educational and skill-building programs that capture the latest business and technology trends
  • Discovering effective intersections of art, technology, and science to enhance local industries and preserve heritage

  • Project client: UNESCO Multisectoral Regional Office in Bangkok.
  • Project time: March to 20 October 2023.
  • Project funding: UNESCO / Korea Funds-in-Trust (KFIT).
  • Project members: FabCafe Bangkok. Project director: Kalaya Kovidvisith (FabCafe Bangkok founder). Assistants: Chonticha Aroonroongkaokai, Chanidapa Savangvarorose.
    Hackathon winners: Arttakrit Jeenmahant, Songsak Supromphunt, Sanit Sudsakorn, Somruthai Ruangtrakul, Warut Boonyakajorn.
  • Project partners: the Creative Economy Agency of Thailand (CEA) and the Thailand Creative & Design Center (TCDC).
  • Kalaya Kovidvisith

    FabCafe Bangkok Co-founder

    Kalaya Kovidvisith is Co-founder of FabCafe Bangkok and Managing Director of FABLAB Thailand. She holds Master degree in Design and Computation from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Her research interests focus on how digital fabrication and biotechnology reinforce the changing relationship in industry and create the new business model for the next design generation. Kalaya is Global Entrepreneur Summit Delegate of 2015 and Asia Pacific Weeks Berlin 2016.

    Kalaya Kovidvisith is Co-founder of FabCafe Bangkok and Managing Director of FABLAB Thailand. She holds Master degree in Design and Computation from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Her research interests focus on how digital fabrication and biotechnology reinforce the changing relationship in industry and create the new business model for the next design generation. Kalaya is Global Entrepreneur Summit Delegate of 2015 and Asia Pacific Weeks Berlin 2016.

  • Chonticha Aroonroongkaokai

    Creative Technologist, FabCafe Bangkok

    Chonticha pursued her undergraduate degree in Architecture at Thammasat University, where her focus and interest revolved around design and technology, particularly in the realm of robotics. Her past endeavors featured her significant role in creating Extended Reality experiences for UNESCO’s NEWVIEW XR FieldLAB and Boost Play Measure project.

    Chonticha pursued her undergraduate degree in Architecture at Thammasat University, where her focus and interest revolved around design and technology, particularly in the realm of robotics. Her past endeavors featured her significant role in creating Extended Reality experiences for UNESCO’s NEWVIEW XR FieldLAB and Boost Play Measure project.

  • Chanidapa Savangvarorose

    Design Researcher and Project Manager, FabCafe Bangkok

    Chanidapa completed her undergraduate studies in Industrial Design at Chulalongkorn University. She achieved recognition for her outstanding research and design project in partnership with Chula Hospital, with a specific focus on rehabilitation, to receive the gold medal and Special Award from The 7th World Invention Innovation Contest, Korea Invention Academy (KIA). She holds the position of Head Researcher for the Extended Reality market, with a specific focus on the Mekong region for UNESCO project, and currently leads a research team dedicated to the exploration of sustainable technology solutions.

    Chanidapa completed her undergraduate studies in Industrial Design at Chulalongkorn University. She achieved recognition for her outstanding research and design project in partnership with Chula Hospital, with a specific focus on rehabilitation, to receive the gold medal and Special Award from The 7th World Invention Innovation Contest, Korea Invention Academy (KIA). She holds the position of Head Researcher for the Extended Reality market, with a specific focus on the Mekong region for UNESCO project, and currently leads a research team dedicated to the exploration of sustainable technology solutions.

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  • FabCafe Global Editorial Team

    This articles is edited by FabCafe Global.

    Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions on this article with us.
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    This articles is edited by FabCafe Global.

    Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions on this article with us.
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