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.