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Developments in digital media have provided a framework for new approaches to cultural heritage. The technological mediation of historically significant sites allows users to remotely access and explore these spaces, uncovering their multilayered significance from a distance. Advancements in audio-visual technologies have allowed for the development of new approaches to the exploration of space and meaning, extending educational possibilities through technology that allows for participation in an educational narrative. The implementation of such technological strategies allows the general public a kinaesthetic and immersive experience of culturally significant locations.

The possibility of interactive strategies for educational interaction has been extended in Hampi_Live beyond flat imagery and video toward the use of immersive interactive environments. Where previous immersive projected environments allowed the exploration of static spaces and landscapes using 3D imagery, the full potential of interactive programming is realised in this program through the use of panoramic viewing platforms and intuitive interfaces developed at the iCinema Centre for Interactive Cinematic Research.

Hampi_Live makes use of the Advanced Visualization and Interaction Environment (AVIE)—a theatre platform comprised of a custom designed, interactive platform that features a 360-degree stereoscopic projection screen and ambisonic audio system. PLACE-Hampi, the media artwork installed in the platform, creates a “virtual heritage” through its interactive characteristics. Users observe as well as trigger activity in the virtual space as they navigate a landscape of 3D photographs of the UNESCO world heritage listed monuments located at Hampi, India. Participating in scenarios enacted by computer-generated characters based on figures in Hindu mythology, the virtual visitors explore the site as a nonlinear narrative and investigate the physical space of Hampi while uncovering its cultural significance through informative, interactive elements of the program.

By reflecting the historical and religious significance of the site with the use of interactive cinematic media, PLACE-Hampi digitally records and preserves the site in a way that virtually situates audiences inside the space to become explorers and agents rather than readers.

In 2009, a new interaction scenario for the study was introduced to further articulate the viewer experience of co-presence in an interactive narrative. This scenario enables an animated digital character situated in the Hampi environment to “notice” the proximity of a real visitor, and to use their virtual video camera to seemingly make a film of that real visitor which can then be played back on the cinematic screen. This development of the project introduces a critical reflection on the notion of presence in a cultural heritage landscape that is usually framed in terms of the tourist experience.

PLACE-Hampi was exhibited at:

  • Lille3000, France, 2006-2007;
  • From Spark to Pixel, Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin, 2007-2008;
  • Panorama Festival, ZKM, Karlsruhe, 2008;
  • eLandscapes, Shanghai, 2008; and
  • Ancient Hampi: A Hindu Kingdom Brought to Life, Immigration Museum, Melbourne, 2008-2010.

This project was developed in collaboration with a series of institutions and industry partners including the University of New South Wales; City University of Hong Kong; The University of Sydney; Nanyang Technological University, Singapore; ZKM Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, Germany; University of Pennsylvania; Museum Victoria, Melbourne; Epidemic, Paris; Gollings Photography, Melbourne; and Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne.

Hampi_Live was supported by the Australian Research Council’s Linkage Projects funding scheme (LP0669163)