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Esprit Project 25377 - ESCAPE
Electronic Landscapes

Keywords: virtual environments, inhabited information spaces, multimedia art, empirical fieldstudies

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The last three years have seen a rapid growth in the development of systems that adopt a spatial approach to the presentation of computer based information. This has been fuelled by the increasingly ubiquitous nature of the Internet and the maturing of 3D interaction techniques. However, despite the large number of research and commercial explorations into shared, multi-user virtual environments little or no consideration has been given to the development of heterogeneous large scale landscapes capable of allowing a wide range of different spaces to coexist. Rather, an insular approach has been pursued with each virtual environment being relatively separate from others. This sets the research challenge of developing techniques which will allow a wide variety of different approaches and spaces to coexist successfully in a seamless manner. Recognising and supporting this diversity of space in itself requires a radical departure from existing considerations of electronic environments. Indeed, it is unlikely that we will see the wide-scale adoption of shared virtual environments in use by the general citizen unless attention is paid to their integration and interconnection, without disrupting healthy variation between different environments as a function of their application or of the social group they support or the culture within which they have emerged .

The main objective of this proposal is an investigation of the means by which future large scale shared electronic environments will be realised. This requires fundamental research into the formation of a suitable set of paradigms for these environments and the demonstration of the application of these paradigms in practice. This requires the development of metaphors, paradigms and theories that offer engaging and supportive interfaces. eSCAPE (the project) seeks to explore precisely these issues and lay the theoretical foundation for the future developers of shared virtual environments through the consideration and development of electronic landscapes ,or 'e-scapes' (the concept).

The eSCAPE project will investigate the exploration and development of the concept of an 'electronic landscape' (e-scape) as a virtual environment which provides interconnections to other virtual environments. An e-scape is a place where places meet and where all those places are inhabited information spaces which can contain representations of persons (avatars), objects/information and artificial agents. An e-scape supports the integration and coexistence of multiple shared virtual environments.

The eSCAPE project will result in the development of a series of specific theoretical and practical results. These will include:

This research is multidisciplinary in nature and one of the unique aspects of the eSCAPE proposal is that it brings together a set of previously disparate traditions to address these issues in a concerted manner. In particular the following skills and expertise are combined

ESCAPE results will be communicated through research publications, access to concept demonstrators, multimedia events and workshops.

Contact Point
Dr. Tom Rodden/ Ms. Jacqui Forsyth
Lancaster University
Computing Department
UK - Lancaster LA1 4YR

e-mail: (email removed)

Start date: 1 July 97
Duration: 36 months

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