Upcoming 2020-21 Publications

Books in press/pending

  • Lee, C. & Champion, E. (Ed). (2021: pending). Screen Tourism and Affective Landscapes. Edited book. Still under review/acceptance process but I am quietly confident.
  • Champion, E. (2021: pending). Rethinking Virtual Places. Indiana University Press, Spatial Humanities series. Also, final internal review.

Book chapters in press/pending

  • Champion, E. & Foka, A. (2020: in press). “Chapter 17: Art History, Heritage Games, and Virtual Reality”, in Brown, K. J. (Ed.). The Routledge Companion to Digital Humanities and Art History. Routledge, UK. May 2020. Chapter.
  • Champion, E., Nurmikko-Fuller, T., & Grant, K. 2020 (pending, invited). “Blue Sky Skyrim VR: Immersive Techniques to Engage with Medieval History.” In Games for Teaching, Impact, and Research edited by Robert Houghton, Winchester University. Chapter. Abstract accepted, chapter due end of 2020.
  • Invitation to Austrian Academy of Sciences (Vienna) by Professor Eveline Wandl-Vogt to contribute to manifesto and “Biodiversity and Cultural Diversity: Virtual opportunities” chapter for e-book Biodiversity in connection with Linguistic and Cultural Diversity. 22-23 October 2019. Editors from Austrian Academy of Sciences and Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities; European Citizen Science Association; metaLab (Harvard) etc. Chapter submitted, abstract accepted.
  • Champion, E. (2020: under review). “Not Quite Virtual: Techné between Text and World.” In Texts & Technology: Inventing the Future of the Humanities, edited by Anastasia Salter and Barry Mauer, University of Central Florida, Orlando Florida USA. Chapter. Abstract accepted. Invited.
  • Champion, E. (2020: under review). “Workshopping Game Prototypes for History and Heritage” for Digital Humanities book, Politecnico di Torino, Italy. Aracne Publishing Company. Chapter submitted. Invited.

Conferences (pending/postponed/cancelled)

Upcoming Invitations

Upcoming Visiting Scientist/Professorship

  • One month visiting scientist, University of Padova (Padua), Veneto, Italy. Now on hold. Candidature finanziate.


The book that was not but might still be

The end of this month I hope to receive (yet again) a review, internally, for Rethinking Virtual Places, from Indiana University Press.

I talked to them about an advance contract in 2016, there has been two review rounds already, maybe 2-4 reviewers, relatively minor comments, and apparently the press is being prepared (for early-ish 2021 release) but every time I receive feedback the industry has moved forward so fast and expectations of virtual world/reality predictions from me so increased. it has been an exercise in frustration. It is very tiring trying to keep up with wishes to see into the future standing on the broken beer bottles of so many recent VR promises.

For example, for two years, I think, I have been promoting the value of WebXR (no app downloads, simply access in a browser with internet access, don’t worry about the device you view it on) but examples are still simple and sketchy: https://ssvar.ch/mozillas-new-demo-proves-webxr-can-match-apps/

Oculus and Facebook (their new owner) are making some impressive strides by focusing on practical challenges, while Magic Leap seem to be highly successful at promoting their company rather than selling their product. Please don’t get me started on the services sales and support of Microsoft HoloLens (which does not create Holograms by the way. Naughty marketing department).

And that is just the VR/MR companies, the AR industry changes is even harder, perhaps, to keep track of.

My book though, was me thinking I have not come across too many books lately (in 2015 or 2016) that tries to address the issues of virtual places and why designing satisfying ones seems so difficult (unless you like swatting Orcs, I suppose). I wanted to venture more into the real of virtual places that don’t quite have real place qualities. Not virtuality, it is too easy to capriciously ponder weird new visions when virtual place-making can’t even solve simple real-place simulation problems. Will the book be published now without me having to go through yet more now-reviewer-wants-you-to-make-more-comments-on-recent-x-trends? I guess I will have to watch this space.


Infected reality

I’ve said for awhile now that mixed and augmented reality will overtake VR in terms of access-can run on your own phone and uses what is already there and appears to be more interactive (arguably). But there is another, more immediate and practical issue I did not think of, how hard it is to clean those VR headsets. I knew museums don’t want to hand out expensive interface devices (because they are broken, lost or stolen), but I forgot about the expense and hassle of tissues, regular cleaning and so forth of those on your head glasses that you share with hundreds if not thousands of other people.

Bring your own device, install an app or visit a WebXR-enabling website (https://elijahtai.com/state-of-vr-and-webxr/)*, and only you need to touch it, ideally you can take a memento home or share it with others…

*depending on your browser



eTourism interview in 14.03.2020 La Presse

Voyager… sans sortir de chez soi

here is the original conversation (with permission from Violaine)

-Do you think eTourism can «take advantage» of the coronavirus (and the fear to travel associated with) and become more popular in the next few months-weeks, etc?

Universities are already switching courses to online content, businesses are moving to teleconferencing, but eTourism is likely to be much slower, in part because there are not many well-known applications, yet.

Apart from surfing via websites, the increasing affordability and usability of head-mounted displays (HMDs)for virtual reality will I think consolidate their hold at least on gaming consoles. The generation of gaming consoles such as PlayStation 5, promise highly impressive graphics and they already make VR equipment. Would somebody buy a 400 US dollar headset though to attach to their desktop PC or powerful laptop, for eTourism? I don’t think the market is that strong, yet. What might happen is augmented reality tourism, where you use a specialist gaming console such as the PlayStation 2 (https://www.t3.com/au/news/sony-playstation-vr-2-psvr-2-release-date) to virtually visit destinations and see either yourself and friends in the virtual setting, or project parts of the virtual experience onto part of your real-world surroundings. This is all highly speculative, but I think AR and VR and MR (Mixed Reality) are merging.

-How common it is in 2019? Will it become more widespread? How? 

Ideally 2019 is the year we really try to build content, but we also need to build more standardized content infrastructures and standards, so we don’t just develop projects for one type of headset (which could quickly be superseded, or worse, not supported, in the near future).

-Can Virtual reality in tourism replace real experiences?

You can already use VR to travel to places you aren’t likely to visit in the real world (like an astronaut’s shuttle or Antarctica), the real goldmine is developing augmented or enhanced experiences that you would not find in the real world as it exists now, or to overlay information onto the experience in such a way that the experience is still unique and meaningful. You may have seen this: https://theconversation.com/why-virtual-reality-cannot-match-the-real-thing-92035

I don’t agree with the author, why even try to compete with the existing site, object or event? Why not allow people to explore experiences and interpretations from different points of view? Why not give them different affordances so they can some insight into a life lived differently? Or an imagination of the past present or future rich and involving enough to be considered a new world?

-What are the best usage of Virtual reality in tourism: is it to allow us to travel without leaving the comfort of our house, or add some special experiences to a visit to a museum, national park, etc?

My research is into cultural heritage, and the more difficult aspect is the creation of special experiences, that people can collaboratively enjoy, and takes on special meaning because of the setting.

I strongly believe that more open but collaborative experiences will prove more meaningful and satisfying than polished but single-person experiences. What we don’t often have yet, though, are rich and powerful multiple participant experiences. Amusement parks come close, but seldom allow the experience to be captured and reshared, nor do they usually add to our experience of real-world places.

My PhD was funded by the Australian Research Council and Lonely Planet to explore internet tourism in 3D nearly 20 years ago, and I explored how different types of interaction afforded cultural learning, but also what engaged people and was memorable. The gamers completed most tasks and most quickly, but they did not necessarily remember the content! So it also depends on the user and what they expect to find. I think another rich avenue is augmented reality tourism, as it can filter out, be more responsive, more accessible via phones, and enhances the world already there rather than try to compete with it. Exertion devices, physical trainers etc. tied to virtual tourism equipment also has appeal for our more sedentary and, for some, quarantined lives: https://news.theceomagazine.com/lifestyle/health/sydney-university-virtual-reality/

-How difficult is it to produce a good virtual reality touristic experience? (is it expensive? technologically difficult?)

I think it is a piece of string question. If you want a sense of rich spatial immersion, that is one thing. A native form of interaction (seeing and moving your hands in VR) is already a possibility, and there are new devices on the way to simulate walking: https://medium.com/@infiniwalk/real-unlimited-locomotion-in-virtual-reality-changes-everything-ce0a5bf8bffc

There are also privacy issues, especially if the VR headset connects via an external camera, the internet, your phone  and social media or connects to biofeedback devices, Facebook for example, owns Oculus: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/08/the-hidden-risk-of-virtual-reality-and-what-to-do-about-it/ and also  https://www.theverge.com/2018/4/9/17206650/oculus-facebook-vr-user-data-mining-privacy-policy-advertising plus https://www.roadtovr.com/oculus-quest-camera-privacy-rift-s-facebook/

The eye-tracking feature of head mounted displays is exciting, and HMDs are still increasingly cheaper, better, and more comfortable. But apart from promising interaction, powerful displays, and still-costly but more sophisticated interfaces, I think we still have major gaps in meaningful entertainment and eLearning: https://www.cnet.com/news/eye-tracking-is-the-next-phase-for-vr-ready-or-not/

-How to familiarize with eTourism? Is it hard (or expensive?) to follow the technology (Will someone have to buy a new device every year? is the technology compatible from one provider or cie to the other?)

You can buy an Oculus Quest now that is comfortable with reasonable resolution, that provides surround panoramas and 3D movies and games. Much VR is created in the Unity or Unreal game engines, but yes the more sophisticated headsets (like the Mixed Reality Microsoft HoloLens, which does not create Holograms) seem to last 1-2 years, if we are lucky. These headsets have to hit the market so quickly, many develop issues that are not apparently obvious:

6 month Research Assistant position

I require a research assistant for an ARC LIEF project:

Fixed Term Research Assistant for Time Layered Culture Map Project (Web-based Mapping and AR/MR/VR technologies] 

  • Develop exemplars of cultural heritage data integrated with GIS data, on open source web platform Recogito [https://recogito.pelagios.org/] or equivalent.
  • Advise and develop related semantic web ontologies, features and supporting data.
  • Develop working examples of cultural heritage sites on this platform along with requested visualisation and annotation features (requested by supervisor)
  • Help integration with envisaged virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality platforms and related devices
  • Assist development of reports, tutorials, scholarly publications and grant applications based on the above including sourcing earlier papers and case studies
  • Store all examples and codes on accessible software repositories as requested by supervisor
  • Demonstrate, where required, the above GIS, mapping and semantic web examples.
  • Expertise required: knowledge of GIS, GeoJSON or similar, programming, familiarity with recent AR/VR technologies would be an advantage.
  • SALARY: G05.3  level.
  • The work is based at Curtin and can be shared but covers 6 months fulltime worl starting ASAP.

The job will be advertised soon but please contact erik dot champion at curtin edu au for any questions.

Free talks tomorrow, 21.02.2020

Dr Chris McDowall

This free mini-symposium of talks from leading UK NZ and Australian experts will explore recent developments and intriguing challenges in spatial and platial design involving aspects of both culture and technology.

10:10 Dr Stuart Dunn, Head of The Department of Digital Humanities King’s College London, UK. Finding ourselves from Ptolemy to GPS: creating, exploring and communicating personal cartographies with technology

10:50 Dr. Juan Hiriart, Senior Lecturer in Interactive Media Art and Design, Salford University, Manchester, UK. People and Things: Representing Past Societies and Material Cultures in Game-form.

11:30 Dr Chris McDowall, Freelance Cartographer, New Zealand. Looking up from the map: We Are Here: An Atlas of Aotearoa.

12:10 tea/coffee break provided b Kirribilli (funded by the Curtin Institute for Computation).

12:30 Ms Nat Raisbeck-Brown, Experimental Spatial Scientist, Indigenous Ecological Knowledge Project, Atlas of Living Australia, CSIRO, Perth. Linking Indigenous to Western science knowledge through the Atlas of Living Australia.

12:50 Professor Erik Champion, UNESCO Chair of Cultural Heritage and Visualisation, Curtin University.

We will attempt to finish by 13.10.

We are grateful to the Curtin Institute for Computation for funding this event and the related research project.