Virtual Tours and Serious Game for Promoting Educational Tourism Using Non-Intrusive Human-Computer Interfaces

Virtual Tours and Serious Game for Promoting Educational Tourism Using Non-Intrusive Human-Computer Interfaces

Mario Martínez-Zarzuela (University of Valladolid, Spain), Francisco Javier Díaz-Pernas (University of Valladolid, Spain), Míriam Antón-Rodríguez (University of Valladolid, Spain), Sergio Martín-Calzón (University of Valladolid, Spain) and David González-Ortega (University of Valladolid, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch360

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As we become an increasingly visual society, a way to maintain heritage and promote culture and knowledge about cities and museums is adopting new visualization and human computer interaction technologies. Technological approaches taking advantage of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are being adopted inside museums to attract attention of the visitors on the most different topics (Walczak, Cellary, & White, 2006). Complexity of these displays is increasing day by day, while the technologies behind the scene are becoming more common and affordable. Actually, the growing expansion of these technologies makes it possible to somehow take museums information directly to homes using low-cost Virtual Reality devices (Mortara et al., 2013). In this article we will explore the development of such a system. The system is employed to promote the city of Valladolid in Spain from architecture, historic, geographic or artistic perspectives. Under this point of view, the system can be considered as a tool for remote Educational Tourism.

Educational tourism by itself is one of the trends that have higher growth in recent years (Donaldson & Gatsinzi, 2005). Despite the concept of travel for education and learning is a complicated area to delimit (Smith & Jenner, 1997), tourists are beginning to give more importance to new ways for discovering tourist destinations, and so the possibilities of learning grow significantly. On certain occasions, the learning activities at the destination are performed as annexed to the travel aim, but other times, the purpose of the trip is the learning itself. The most traditional way to know any city is through brochures provided by the Tourism and Information Office. In this way these offices can foster a more attractive way to learn about the different aspects of the city. Other approaches include traditional city books and multimedia DVD videos offering very limited user interaction possibilities.

Augmented and Virtual Reality technologies can be used to improve the user experience a step further in the learning process (Zhigeng, Cheok, Yang, Zhu, & Shi, 2006). Nowadays, the first one is used mainly while the visitor is in the travel destination. More and more AR mobile applications are available to get additional information from historical places. These applications usually use the mobile devices GPS signal information to show augmented reality layers containing text, pictures, videos or audio explanations of a place. While AR is a very convenient approach when the visitor has travelled to a place, VR solutions are preferred when the user is far away, may be sitting in front of a display at a museum. VR enables the possibility of not only visiting and knowing places nearby, but also to visit other cities and historical spaces even from the users’ homes. This approach offers also a great opportunity to people who cannot travel to a destination for different reasons such as illness, old age or high travel costs among others. Using a low-cost system as the one described in this article, these populations could experience travelling and educational tourism learning even from their own homes, using a game console or a PC together with proper visualization and interaction devices.

The advent of commercially available gaming consoles and multi-touch devices has resulted in an enormous growth of the gaming market. New devices have brought new ways of interaction based on natural gestures. Some of these gaming consoles include peripherals that can track the user movements using infrared technology or capture the environment to generate virtual experiences. Besides, the great availability of new gaming technologies comes together with an increasing interest in not only playful aspect of games, but their utility in areas such as education, health, art or training among others. Those games and videogames belong to a new category of games called Serious Games (Zyda, 2005): learning tools that pursue educational objectives, allowing players to get a set of knowledge and skills predominantly practical.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Serious Game: Cognitive or physical challenge, which combines enjoyment with training. The purpose behind the training can have specific objectives in areas such as education, health or public policy, among others.

Microsoft® Kinect: 3D human-computer interface using infrared light, that allows building applications based on skeleton tracking and movement recognition. Originally created for the game console Microsoft® Xbox 360, can be now used on a PC and different operating systems.

Educational Tourism: The main objective of the tourist is acquiring new knowledge about culture or history from other countries or cities. It is a trending type of tourism in many world regions, particularly in Europe.

Natural User Interface: Human-computer interface that allows the user interacting with the system without needing traditional computer input devices (mouse devices, keyboard, touchpad, joystick), but performing natural movements with hands and body, and obtaining the same result.

Game Engine: Software used for video-game development using specific programming techniques and tools, attending technical requirements in terms of graphics, sound/music, physics simulation or artificial intelligence.

3D Design Program: Software that allows creation or reconstruction of 3D real or imaginary objects, that could further be used in different areas such as architecture, cinema or video games.

Virtual Reality (VR): The use of computer modeling and simulation to enable a person to interact with an artificial reconstructed 3D visual or other sensory environment. VR applications can use different interactive devices such as goggles, headsets or gloves and Natural User Interfaces such as Microsoft® Kinect.

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