Our two pilot use cases

The XR4DRAMA project is driven by two pilot use cases: disaster management and media production planning. The two user partners, Alto Adriatico Water Authority (AAWA, Italy) and Deutsche Welle (DW, Germany), have spent the first months of the project to specify the use cases and to define the user requirements:

The disaster management use case

The first use case describes a situation where clear and comprehensible information is vital, and a confusing impression could be fatal: the management of (natural) disasters. AAWA is an institution that is responsible for preventing flooding as far as possible and to manage emergency situations in case of one. In this project the focus lies on Vicenza, a city located in north-eastern Italy. The city and the surrounding area lay at the confluence of four rivers and therefore have experienced severe floodings in the past. Due to the high flood risk the city of Vicenza and AAWA have already developed alert systems, advanced emergency action plans, and can also count on well qualified civil protection volunteers. However, disasters never play out according to plan. It is highly challenging to manage unforeseen emergencies from a remote control room with only little awareness of the real circumstances in the field. 

The main purpose of the XR4DRAMA system is therefore to support disaster managers who are working from remote positions and to connect them with the first responders in the field. The whole scenario is split into two operational phases: the preparation for a potential crisis and the time during the emergency.  

The pre-emergency phase begins with an official warning that informs about an alarming rise of water levels. At this point, the staff inside the control room should be able to access various relevant information through the XR4DRAMA system. This information includes map data, satellite images and water level reports and delivers a comprehensive overview of the situation. This will allow the management team to initiate first measures to minimise the fallout of the upcoming disaster. 

During the emergency itself, the team in the control room depends on information from the field, either reported by first responders or by citizens on-site. This information is supposed to be communicated through the XR4DRAMA mobile app. It undergoes automated textual, visual and audio analysis to provide a new information layer in the XR4DRAMA system. Together with this layer visualisations in virtual and augmented reality improve situation awareness for disaster managers and help them to make the right decisions consciously and efficiently even from their remote position. Additionally, the control room staff is able to assign tasks and to monitor their execution in real time. Furthermore, the project uses physiological and environmental sensors to allow the management to continuously assess the physical status of first responders and potential risks for their wellbeing.

The media production planning use case

The second use case is not as life-threatening as the first case, but not less worthwhile. Media production planning is a complex process utilising a variety of approaches, strategies, and tools to ensure a smooth operation. This planning process becomes more difficult when production managers have not visited and experienced the proposed location in person. Their lack of grasping the conditions on-site may bring down production quality.  

The showcase that we have chosen to evaluate the XR4DRAMA system is a fictious documentary about the old town on the Greek island of Corfu. Throughout the centuries, the island was ruled by various powers and often subject to unrest and war which large fortifications and ancient ruins bear witness to. In 2007, the old town of Corfu was added to the UNESCO Cultural World Heritage list. The fictious documentary intends to cover the changeful history as well as the life of the islanders today on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of being a world heritage site. 

The media production planning workflow is split into three steps, starting with the decision for the topic and location. Based on this initial idea, the production management can use the XR4DRAMA system to receive fundamental information about the location in question. The results of these automated queries are then analysed, organised and presented in a comprehensible way by the system.  

In a second step, the production management assigns a location scout to further investigate the location. Their task is to verify, adjust and add information such as local data, images, videos and audio recordings. They feed this data into the system which enables the production staff to gain a better overview and feeling for the location even from their remote position.  

The final phase is the actual planning of the production itself based on all the information the system and the location scout provided. The production management needs to be able to make creative and reasonable decisions without being on site which requires a certain understanding of and feel for the respective location. Therefore, the XR4DRAMA system displays virtual, immersive environments in order to gain a certain level of spatial sense regarding the location. Additionally, the remote production management team will be able to simulate camera movements and shot angles under various lighting conditions in VR. Thus, xR4DRAMA will contribute to save resources, to optimise the production and – ultimately – to boost the creative outcome overall. 

For both use cases, it’s going to be very interesting to see how professional users deal with immersive environments and how these might improve situation awareness and the quality of their work. We are going to keep you posted. 

Photos by
giem36 via Pixabay
Erroscia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Martin Falbisoner, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Meet The XR4DRAMA Consortium (I): Martina Monego and the Alto Adriatico Water Authority (AAWA)

Martina Monego during a surveying mission in her district (Eastern Alps)

In this series of blog interviews, we further introduce the people and organizations behind XR4DRAMA by asking them about their work and their particular interest in the project. Our first interview partner is Martina Monego of AAWA, an Italian public body dedicated to the management and regulation of the Alpi Orientali (Eastern Alps) hydrographic district.

1) Martina, when did you first get in touch with the concept of situation awareness (SA) and or XR technology?

As a disaster manager, I’ve been familiar with SA for quite a while, but XR is a rather new thing to me. However, next to XR4DRAMA, I’ve also been involved in a (still unnamed) project that uses immersive technology for educational and training purposes. This one is about better engagement in learning processes and helping students improve their visualization skills. The basic idea is to simulate a flood in a very realistic way, so students can better understand the risks, the relevant aspects of preparing for a disaster like this, and the right behavior in case of emergency.

2) Who is in your team – and what are your colleagues working on at the moment?

The team consists of Michele Ferri, Daniele Nobiato, Franceso Zaffanella and myself. Michele Ferri is our development and innovation manager, in charge of coordinating hydrological research in the context of flood risk management, and the scientific lead. Daniele, Francesco and I are experts in hydrologic and hydraulic modelling, which includes data assimilation, flood forecasting, and flood risk assessment. As a team, we’re responsible for all kinds of projects. For example, we’re currently implementing a so-called Citizen Observatory (CO) on water in our district. In the scope of this CO, citizens provide information (e.g. on water and snow levels or flooded areas) via a mobile app. We then combine this information with other data and use it for early warning systems. The goal is to get a better picture of developments before and during a flood event and to facilitate communications between citizens, authorities, and agents in the field. In this way, we can increase the effectiveness of civil protection efforts. We also do presentations and training sessions for teachers, students, and civil protection volunteers.

Daniele Nobiato and Franceso Zaffanella in the Vicenza municipality control room

3) From your point of view: What are the most interesting aspects about XR4DRAMA?

Well, during disasters like floods, decision makers and first responders face a lot of stress – and need to understand the situation as clearly as possible, so they can act promptly, make the right call, and not waste valuable resources. X4DRAMA will hopefully help them do a better job – and stay safe. At AAWA, we’re very interested in achieving a level of situation awareness that is as detailed and reliable as possible. In our pilot – which we’ll explain in detail later on – we can hopefully do two very interesting things: In phase number one, we’ll collect web information, sensor data, and other sources to predict and simulate a specific scenario, so that control room staff can check and verify all necessary emergency procedures.

4) What could be a challenge for the consortium?

In my opinion, the main challenge is to have enough data and repositories available, so we can get to a good level or SA – or the representation thereof – and fully exploit the potential of XR.  Furthermore, our simulation should not be about high-end scenography, but about meaningful and tailor-made content that serves disaster managers. We need to effectively use the technology to support the work and ensure the safety of our first responders.

5) When the project is over in late 2022, what kind of outcome do you expect?

Our vision is to have an innovative and effective tool that improves emergency management in the control room, increases the safety of rescue units, and optimizes our resources.

Dear Martina, thank you for your time!

Our next interview partner will be Sotiris Diplaris of CERTH.