XR & Immersive Journalism

XR4DAMA: Extended Reality for Disaster Management and Media Planning

DW Innovation and a group of European partners in tech and academia have started building a new digital platform that will help improve situation awareness.

The concept of situation awareness (SA) has become increasingly important for all kinds of organizations, including those working in media. In a nutshell, SA means that you know what is going on in a certain place at a certain time in as much detail as possible. And as a team in charge of TV productions that involve sending reporters to far-off places, doing live interviews in the middle of a thunderstorm, or shooting a documentary while others may be shooting civilians, you just want and need to know what is going on. Especially in the era of the Corona pandemic, when travel is challenging, backup potentially unavailable, and thorough planning becomes key.

Data, XR, and SA

Enter the XR4DRAMA project, an Innovation Action (IA) launched in the scope of the EU-funded R&D program Horizon 2020. The acronym resolves to "Extended Reality For Disaster Management And Media Planning", and the project partners  aim to build useful digital tools for basically any kind of organization that sends staff to unfamiliar, unsteady, or unsafe locations. 

The general idea is to improve SA by exploiting multi-modal data and XR technology. We are talking about: geospatial data, all kinds of web content, sensor readings, cultural context etc., all packed up and wrapped in an interface that potentially supports everything from light-weight mobile options to complex VR experiences.

A data-informed XR/SA view of a street near Athens, Greece (XR4DRAMA interface mock-up)

Partners, skills, and use cases

In XR4Drama , DW  is one of seven partner organizations, who all play different roles–and complement each other:

The Autorità di bacino Distrettuale Delle Alpi Orientali (Alto Adriatico Water Authority, AAWA) is an Italian public body that knows a great deal about flood defense, hydrogeological modelling, disaster risk mapping etc. In XR4DRAMA, AAWA is mainly responsible for the disaster management pilots. The Information Technologies Institute (ITI) at the Centre for Research and Technology (CERTH) is XR4DRAMA's lead coordinator and also in charge of technical implementation. Another partner is German software developer Nurogames–experts when it comes to AR, VR, 3D animation and interfaces. Smartex, also hailing from Italy, creates smart garments, e.g. textiles that can sense the bio signs of a first responder. The Natural Language Processing Group at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF-TALN) throws their expertise of natural language processing (NLP/NLProc) into the mix: Disaster managers and media workers may profit from quickly processed natural language info concerning their deployment area–and maybe their stress levels can be detected via their speech? Last, but not least, Greek SME up2metric will support XR4DRAMA by providing the latest in computer vision, i.e. technology that makes cameras and other gadgets see and understand what is going on in a designated location. 

DW Innovation's main tasks are scenario development and user requirements (with a focus on a media planning pilot) and external communications/dissemination.

Project status and further info

XR4DRAMA was kicked off in November 2021 and will run for two full years. In month no. 4, the project is well consolidated: The partners frequently meet in video conferences, pilots are being outlined in greater detail, wikis and websites have been launched. Time for the core innovation work to begin.

To learn more about the project check out the Official XR4DRAMA website.
For frequent updates, follow XR4DRAMA on Twitter.
You may also request joining the XR4DRAMA group on LinkedIn.

Written by Alexander Plaum
Key visual based on a photo by Sabin Basnet

Logo Deutsche Welle
DW Innovation