The project consists of the creation of a virtual and augmented reality application for the Rodopi National Park. It represents a complex application that provides a modern educational tool for all visits of Primary and Secondary Education students from Greece and abroad in both Greek and English. The main goal of the activity is to change and improve our perception of natural environments by transmitting virtually the feelings or the experiences we have when we connect with nature.
The project consists of the creation of a virtual and augmented reality application for the Rodopi Mountains National Park.
It represents a complex application that provides a modern educational tool for all visits of Primary and Secondary Education students from Greece and abroad in both Greek and English. The main goal of the activity is to change and improve our perception of natural environments by transmitting virtually the feelings or the experiences we have when we connect with nature.
A virtual tour takes place in selected sites and elements of the National Park, which composes a powerful experiential "visit" to the Rodopi Mountains. People who are visiting the National Park Information Centre can ware virtual reality masks and dive into the digital environment of Rodopi Mountains National Park.
In addition, a special "book" - catalogue of augmented reality, where selected environments of Rodopi are hosted in its pages, which are rendered as a "setting" and "come alive" in the eyes of the visitor of any age, educational level and interest.
A few words about the Rodopi Mountains National Park
The Rodopi Mountains National Park is divided between Thrace and Eastern Macedonia. It extends over an area of 1.7 million hectares between the prefectures of Drama and Xanthi. The park includes an area classified as a Virgin Forest and five areas included in the NATURA 2000 network. It is considered the richest in biodiversity and the most pristine National Park in Greece and one of the most important areas for the conservation and protection of wildlife in Europe.
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context
The main purpose of the virtual and augmented reality application is to contribute to the promotion of the Rodopi Mountains National Park, the development of environmental awareness and education, with emphasis on informing students and young people, attracting visitors and stimulating sustainable tourism in the wider region in the most direct, attractive and modern way.
This action focuses on introducing the Rodopi National Park to young people. Through their introduction, it is possible to raise awareness about the understanding of the environmental wealth of the region, but also in a more general context. People through their virtual trip to the National Park, are exploring and meeting the uniqueness of the place and they are collecting information in the most enjoyable way.
The introduction of the young people to the content of the Rodopi Park is followed by advice and suggestions for the protection of the environment. The aim of the above is to educate children interactively with theoretical and practical tools on how they can contribute to the fight for the environment.
Education is an investment that takes time, the results of which are long-lasting and far-reaching and raising awareness is the first step towards action to protect the environment. This is what we are trying to achieve by creating a virtual and augmented reality application for the Rodopi Mountains National Park.
The above objectives were achieved as many schools made use of this technology in the National Park Information Centre as well as also the environmental tourism of the Rodopi Park has increased a lot in the last years,
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context
The aesthetics and quality of the experience are one of the key pillars of the project. The very careful UI design resulted in an easy-to-use application and the UX enhanced the user experience.
The virtual tour was designed in a way that met the aesthetic needs of young learners. Basically, it is a virtual tour for students in selected locations and elements of the National Park, which composes a powerful experiential experience of "visiting" the Rodopi Mountains.
VR equipment is required for the virtual tour. The virtual reality application is integrated into the educational material and is an integral part of the museum kit created for the Rodopi Mountains National Park. The application uses modern virtual reality technology in order to "bring to life" in the eyes of the user the special environment of the protected area, to strengthen his/her experience, to compose a modern learning tool for students.
The project is paradigmatic in this context as it unites the natural environment - under protection - with the technological and digital environment. The result of this is to send a strong message to users about the results of this harmonious combination.
The augmented reality application is about the animals of the National Park.
- Augmented reality is used to demonstrate selected animals living in the Rodopi Mountains. Each animal has movement and sound. The user has the possibility to move and observe the animal 360o degrees, zoom in and out, and be photographed individually or in groups with the animal (photo opportunity).
Among the species presented are the brown bear (Ursus arctos), the wild goat (Rupicapra rupicapra), the red deer (Cervus elaphus), the otter (Lutra lutra), the wild cuckoo (Tetrao urogallus), the aegolius (Aegolius funereus).
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context
The augmented reality app as well as the virtual tour app was created to be accessible to everyone and by everyone. It is one of the virtues of digital technology that physical boundaries are no longer barriers. Anyone with the augmented reality catalogue can navigate and get to know the Rodopi National Park and, in a second stage, visit it.
In this way it can be easily used by people and children with special needs. Especially for people with mobility problems. Through the use of the virtual tour these children can tour the Rodopi National Park and enjoy the richness of nature without having to be transported inside the park.
Anyone who has the augmented reality physical catalogue in their hands can experience the Rodopi Park through their mobile phone or laptop. In addition, even for people who do not have access to the physical catalogue, they can download it digitally from the internet at no cost.
It is a key concern of the action to make the Rodopi Park known to have the greatest possible impact without any financial burden.
Please highlight how this approach can be exemplary
The actions are harmonized in the light of the creation of an application for the virtual tour of the Rodopi National Park. An application easily accessible and accessible to everyone from any place. Without having to move from their positions, people can virtually travel around the Rodopi National Park and get to know it interactively, The aesthetics and easy handling of the application make it friendly and entertaining to the public and especially to the younger generations. The result of the above is to create an action, which aims to make the Rodopi National Park known, using cutting-edge technologies and thus making it friendly and entertaining to people, especially young people.
In addition, the combination of technology and the natural environment make the application exemplary and create space for similar actions in favour of environmental protection.
The main objective of the action was to bring people and communities closer to nature and to raise their awareness about environmental protection.
By combining the natural environment with technology, an application was created that is accessible to everyone, but mainly to young people and children. In the year 2022 where children are bombarded by information and digital technology, the creation of a digital application that carries out an immersion of young people with the Rodopi National Park provides them with a piece of useful and usable information.
Although the results of creating a real-time event related to the environment would be numerous, we believe that using digital media to disseminate the environmental wealth of the Rodopi National Park has equally important and multiple benefits. First of all, the application while talking about a specific geographical area and region becomes accessible to everyone regardless of location and region. Any user who has the Catalogue of Rodopi´s animals at his disposal, can through the use of his mobile phone and, by extension, the augmented reality technology, bring to life specific animals belonging to the natural wealth of the national park. As a result of this, the knowledge of the park and the dissemination of knowledge about it is always and everywhere available.
Additionally, the Rodopi National Park gets more attractive through the National Park Information Centre and its usage of Virtual Reality experience.
Please also explain the benefits that derived from their involvement.
The local community is very much aware of the specific issue of man's contact with nature. There have been years of efforts to educate and bring the public into contact with nature in non-intrusive ways, so this knowledge was very useful to provide the appropriate information for the proper design of the National Park Information Centre.
An additional benefit of the local public's contact with this project is that, people in the remote area of Rodopi become familiar with digital skills and cutting-edge technologies, while finding new ways of combining natural wealth with technology.
The project addressed global challenges at various levels, in raising awareness on environmental issues and in integrating cutting-edge technologies in remote areas with environmental richness in Greece. Through the publicity and virtual tour of the Rodopi National Park, people could easily perceive the natural wealth and uniqueness of this protected area. Especially through augmented reality and virtual tour technologies, the natural environment became more friendly and familiar to people and especially to the younger generation. Through this acquaintance of the world with the Rodopi Mountains, the uniqueness of the natural wealth that exists there is communicated, in addition, the world becomes familiar with the area and as a result, resulting in a more awareness of the environmental situation.
We believe that by presenting a unique natural area in a way to engages people is very effective and that results in creating a connection between people and that area. Furthermore, that activates not only their logical parts but also their emotions. Thus people are more likely to act on something they know and relate to, rather than something they simply understand based on logical arguments.
In this way our action has addressed global challenges, especially in the area of raising awareness for environmental protection. Through the application of augmented reality, the world and especially the young generation could get to know and embrace the natural wealth of the Rodopi Mountains in a very creative way. In addition, through the virtual tour application, the world could digitally experience and "live" the experience of Rodopi through a virtual reality mask.
Thus, by letting the world know the uniqueness of the Environmental Park, people get a holistic knowledge of the natural wealth and create an emotional bond.
The innovative character of this action lies in the unique combination of environment and technology. Using virtual and augmented reality to promote a unique environmental park in Greece, an aesthetically perfect message is created with a very good purpose. As technology has become an integral part of our lives, with this innovation we are bringing the natural environment to the eyes of the viewers, hopefully bringing it naturally. In this way, the park gains recognition to a larger audience to attract sustainable tourism and as a result, the park becomes its own tourist attraction.
In addition, we emphasize that it is a unique application in Greece that communicates the environmental wealth of a natural area with the help of augmented and virtual reality.
Please provide clear documentation, communication of methodology and principles in this context.
There are numerous opportunities to build on this action in other places and contexts. First of all, by creating similar technologies in other parks and parks in Greece, a strong message of environmental and ecological awareness is sent. The uniqueness of the wealth of Greece and the whole world can find even more recipients with the help of technology. This is achieved without geographical limitations, as people can digitally travel to these natural phenomena. Through the screen of their computer or mobile phone they can virtually travel to areas of unique richness and interest. As a result of this, areas around Greece and the world are becoming more easily accessible worldwide and the desire to physically visit them is created. This increases the world's visitation to these areas and they can be considered tourist attractions. As a result, they contribute to the economy of the region.
In addition, this action can be used as an interactive educational tool, in schools and institutions. With the help of augmented reality, children can learn about the natural parks of Greece and the whole world in an entertaining way that embraces them.
In addition, the above application can also be applied in cities to familiarize the public with the unique environmental wealth.
The communication was carried out through TV, radio, social media, arousing the interest of the general and specialised public (nature scientists, peribotanists, mountaineers, )
@Athens Digital Arts Festival, 2021
Content licensed to the European Union.