Up Close: Former BYU Student Brings Ancient History To Life With ‘Talking Art’

Oct 23, 2019, 8:37 PM | Updated: Oct 24, 2019, 10:45 am

AUCKLAND, New ZealandA former Brigham Young University student is putting high-tech into the world of ancient history by mixing a little magic, art, culture and technology.

The creation may seem like something out of “Harry Potter” — where the artwork comes alive and talks to people.

But that’s exactly what Jesse Armstrong is creating with his storytelling tech company Vaka Interactive.

Armstrong said that it’s all about bringing stories to life through the talking artwork.

His goal is to bring new life to museums who are wanting people to linger longer.

“We develop storytelling technology for museums, art galleries and others to bring stories to life to truly awaken the power of a story,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong and his team got the idea after sitting at a museum observing people for hours.

“We realized very quickly because there was a lack of storytelling in that space to connect people with an understanding of what they were looking at,” he said.

Jesse is a former BYU student who dropped out of college to pursue his dream in his hometown of Auckland, New Zealand. KSL’s Dan Rascon caught up with him during his trip to the South Pacific Islands covering President Russel M. Nelson’s ministry tour with members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“I love it. Every single day I wake up and it’s the first thing I think about,” Armstrong said about his tech company.

The process is not an easy one — in fact, it is years in the making. The team can either bring to live a historical figure on canvas or put a living person on the screen.

“For example, if we use a person living today we can bring them in, scan them in 3D and effectively use software to make that 3D model of them look like a painted figure and bring that figure to life and make them talk,” Armstrong said.

The other idea they are working on is to have a virtual tour guide which would have the person jump from portrait to portrait, following visitors to talk to them about what they are seeing.

Armstrong’s ultimate dream is to one day get the portrait to have a two-way conversation with people. Right now he’s working with several prestigious museums in his country to get his business up and running.

“My team and I, we are totally sold on what we are doing,” he said.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Up Close

(Becky Hansen, Smile Creations Portrait Studio, St. George, Utah)...
Angie Denison

Up Close with Shawn Bradley

Last year, NBA legend Shawn Bradley was hit by a car while riding his bicycle in St. George. The accident left him paralyzed from the shoulders down. In an exclusive visit, KSL returns to the crash site with Shawn and his wife.
7 days ago
(KSL TV)...
Dan Rascon, KSL TV

Up Close: Girls Wrestling Booming In Utah

Once a real shocker in high school sports, girls wrestling has becoming one of the most popular growing sports in the country. That’s why the season may be over but practice continues for many girls.
3 years ago
Albee Bostrom and Sissy McDade turned their love of thrift store shopping into a business: Thrift H...
Dan Rascon, KSL TV

Up Close: Young Entrepreneurs Turn Thrift Store Shopping Into Full-Time Business

A simple hobby of thrift store shopping has turned into a full-time business for a couple of young entrepreneurs in Utah County. They’ve now opened up their very own unique thrift store with a flash to the past. We are talking about the 1980s and 1990s era.
3 years ago
Courtney Kimball and her sister Kym Frey help women living in the slums of San Pedro Sula, Honduras...
Dan Rascon, KSL TV

Up Close: ‘One Common Thread’ Organization Helping Women In Poverty

Two Utah sisters - one now living in one of the most dangerous cities in the world - are helping to bring women out of poverty by teaching them a skill that’s giving them new hope.
3 years ago
A BYU project called the "Rheumatic Relief" project is helping to heal children's hearts and save h...
Dan Rascon, KSL TV

Up Close: BYU Project Tests Samoan Children For Heart Conditions

A BYU project tests Samoan children for heart conditions, helping to heal damaged hearts and save hundreds of lives.
3 years ago
Dan Rascon, KSL TV

Up Close: West Jordan Girl Sings Her Way Into National Spotlight

An eight-year-old girl from West Jordan has won an incredible award. She became the Grand Champion Vocalist of the year in the 25th annual Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza in San Antonio, Texas.
3 years ago

Sponsored Articles

young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Types of Computer Malware and Examples...
PC Laptops

5 Nasty Types of Computer Malware and Examples | Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Computer and Family Safe

Here are the different types of computer malware and examples that could potentially infect your computer.
tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
Up Close: Former BYU Student Brings Ancient History To Life With ‘Talking Art’