The eSCAPE project investigates the exploration and development of the concept of an electronic landscape as a virtual environment that provides interconnections to other virtual environments. An electronic landscape is a place where inhabited information spaces meet.


The eSCAPE project concluded in 2000. This website is no longer active. Some links on this page will no longer function. If you require information, please contact the Computing Department, Lancaster University.

The last few 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 presentation and interaction techniques which has seen spatial metaphors being used to present on-line information to the citizen. This initial shift to 3D networked environments has been recognised in the Inhabited Information Spaces schema of the I3 initiative.

However, despite the large number of research and commercial explorations into virtual environments (including shared, multi-user virtual environments), little or no consideration has been given to the development of heterogeneous large scale landscapes capable of allowing a 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 that will allow a wide variety of different approaches and spaces to co-exist. Recognising and supporting this diversity of space in itself requires a radical departure from existing considerations of electronic environments.

It is unlikely that we will see the wide-scale adoption of shared virtual environments by the general citizen unless attention is paid to their integration and interconnection. Such a consideration needs to be sensitive to the need for healthy variation between different environments as a function of their application or of the social group they support or culture they have emerged within.

The central challenge of the eSCAPE project is the means by which future large scale 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 research is essentially multidisciplinary in nature and the eSCAPE project 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 with eSCAPE to extend the current considerations of inhabited information spaces.

VR Development eSCAPE will build upon the experiences of SICS in developing DIVE -- a popular multi-user VR environment. DIVE will be complemented by the VR development experience of other partners including the Advanced Interface Group at Manchester, Lancaster and ZKM.

Studies of Use eSCAPE seeks to understand use as a means of developing the user centred interfaces requested by the I3 initiative. This stems from the use of ethnographic studies by Lancaster and Manchester and has involved influential studies of the use of VR systems.

VR Aesthetics eSCAPE provides a central role for artistic and aesthetic issues in the development of VR environments. This draws upon the traditions of VR artists at ZKM and work at both SICS and Manchester and will represent the object of ethnographic study throughout the project, providing valuable insights relating to the nature of such creative collaborations and exploring their potential contribution to design in a broader context.

The move toward more inclusive environments that encompass and involve the citizen will require us to reach beyond existing limited considerations of 'the user' to a recognition of the complex nature of citizens. This requires the development of metaphors, paradigms and theories that offer engaging and supportive interfaces. eSCAPE seeks to explore precisely these issues and lay the theoretical foundation for the future developers of virtual environments through the consideration and development of electronic landscapes.

Development work will be concentrated around two thematic places that act as contrasting alternative instantiations of electronic landscapes. In one case, the place where other places meet will be instantiated as a Virtual Cityscape. In this way, a fairly concrete, familiar metaphor will be adopted as the means of providing interconnection between shared virtual environments. In the other case, the place that provides interconnection will be instantiated as a Virtual Planetarium where shared virtual environments and the connections between them can be represented in more abstract ways, perhaps also making a greater use of the three dimensions of virtual space. In this way, the project can make a comparison between two quite different strategies for realising an electronic landscape.

Challenges

The eSCAPE project is developing the future paradigms essential for the use of Virtual Reality (VR) technology as a means of providing inhabited information spaces. This sets eSCAPE the following project challenges:

Demonstrating the utility of electronic landscapes through building two thematic places (a Virtual Cityscape and a Virtual Planetarium).

Populating thematic places with user-embodiments and agents based on a consideration of how people should be appropriately embodied and what automated assistance people require within electronic landscapes.

To motivate and inform technical development though social scientific field study in sites of relevance to eSCAPE's research challenges and thematic places.

Incorporating work from interactive multimedia arts to develop electronic landscapes which are aesthetically interesting, engaging, invite interactivity and are pleasurable to inhabit.

Developing novel interaction techniques (including public displays) that are appropriate to electronic landscapes and the connectivity they provide.

Developing techniques for the long-term management of electronic landscapes, their initial set-up, maintenance and support.

Refining evaluation strategies based on a systematic suite of social scientific research techniques.

Events

A part of the eSCAPE research programme is a series of focused public events where demonstration of the thematic spaces and multimedia installations will be given. These events will be a mixture of on-line events accessible through the Internet and physical events exploiting demonstration spaces. This will focus on the development of a series of millennium events that will seek to demonstrate the work of eSCAPE in co-ordination with other I3 projects (most notably eRENA). These will include:

A major eSCAPE (and eRENA) event in autumn 1999 at ZKM - as part of Multimediale 6.

The incorporation of an eSCAPE event within EXPO 2000 in Hanover.

The involvement of eSCAPE within the Stockholm celebrations of European City of Culture in 1998.

 

Contact Details

 

LANCASTER

MANCHESTER

Prof. Tom Rodden

Lancaster University
Computing Department
Lancaster
LA1 4YR
United Kingdom

Email: tom@comp.lancs.ac.uk
Phone: +44 1524 593823
Fax: +44 1524 593608


The Advanced Interface Group, Computer Science Department
Coupland Street
Manchester
M13 9QL
United Kingdom

Email: TBP
Telephone: TPB
Fax: TPB

SICS

ZKM

Lennart E. Fahlén

SICS
Box 1263
SE-164 28
Kista
SWEDEN

Email: lef@sics.se
Phone: +46 8 752 1539
Mobile: +46 70 6661539
Fax: +46 8 751 72 30

Prof. Jeffrey Shaw

ZKM
Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie
Institut für Bildmedien
Postfach 6909
76049 Karlsruhe
Germany

Email: js@zkm.de
Phone : +49 721 81001501
Fax: +49 721 810015

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John A. Mariani
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