Magical and Mystery Tour around Cultural Heritage. The Immersive Experience

The Magical and Mystery Tour of the City of Cuenca project aims to integrate Virtual Reality technologies and a methodological and scientific approach for the representation of cultures throughout history. This is the result of many years of work by a great team of professionals, which saw the light in web and multiprojection format in the City of Cuenca and after years of work and study, we have reconfigured and recreated in a new context, enriched and expanded with new interactive tools. This is just a first step towards a more comprehensive and up-to-date experience, which will see the light of day in 2021.

Over the last few years, I have had the opportunity to participate in a large number of projects to enhance “Cultural Heritage” through the use of Virtual Reality technologies and, in a very special way, in the reconstruction of ancient spaces in past times, where the architectural recreation of them requires the perfect coordination of experts, archaeologists, artists, engineers, creatives … in short, a group of professionals with highly specialized profiles.

From the reconstruction of the cities of León in Roman or Visigoth times, Soria and Romanesque, Ronda and its natural environment around its Roman origins, Úbeda and Baeza Renaissance period or Cuenca, land of the three cultures, walking through its Islamic origins until the Christian era.

Although, one of the problems that we encountered years ago was the high cost of bringing these spectacular developments to the public in a simple and accessible way. Since, at that time, we spoke of more than 10 years ago, expensive installations were required, with equipment that needed permanent adjustments and maintenance care. What was left only for the access of some privileged or private exhibitions.

Nowadays, thanks to the evolution of immersive platforms, the accessibility of high-quality devices and autonomy, it is possible to make these projects reach the majority of the population in a very simple way, without the need to travel or simply access from home, but not only that.

The opportunity to integrate tools that allow contextualizing the experience and enriching it with augmented, georeferenced information and on a timeline, is something completely new and innovative. Transferring the visitor to a space in time, where they can experience in first person with these spaces, social and cultural contexts and better understand the what, why and for what of all that. The interrelation between space, time and geography are the key to understanding the culture and evolution of societies and the impact around them. Something that allows us to broaden the focus of what we knew up to now and that helps us to know and interpret the reason for things with greater value.

“Magical and Mystery Tour around the Cultural Heritage” , the immersive experience, has been the first step we have taken, to share these ideas and work and evaluate the result of the experiences and perceptions of visitors to a new immersive space and interactive. Where the times and the route are set by the user himself. Discover by experimenting and letting yourself be carried away by the senses.

The Magical and Mystery Tour of the City of Cuenca project aims to integrate Virtual Reality technologies and a methodological and scientific approach for the representation of cultures throughout history. This is the result of many years of work by a great team of professionals, which saw the light in web and multiprojection format in the City of Cuenca and after years of work and study, we have reconfigured and recreated in a new context, enriched and expanded with new interactive tools. This is just a first step towards a more comprehensive and up-to-date experience, which will see the light of day in 2021.

The final sample is a complete “Virtual Tour” through the culture, art, architecture, industry and society of the Muslim Civilization in Cuenca / KunKa during the period from the 10th to the 11th century, (Spain). A recent data has been revealed by the archaeologist Santiago David Domínguez, in which according to carbon 14 tests carried out on lime samples collected in the Muslim area of ​​the Cuenca castle wall and the Huécar park wall, they have revealed that the city was founded between the years 950 and 1032. Something that brings more light to the work carried out to date.

Live a virtual journey to those years, strolling through the narrow streets of this fortress, letting yourself be carried away by the imagination and the smells of a wild nature in a very special geographical context. In this virtual exhibition, you can see and feel in the first person, the evolution of the Islamic origins of the City by visiting the “Virtual Reconstruction of the Islamic City”, being able to georeferenced and locate the exact location of the ancient city by means of a project developed with “Google Earth VR Pro”. Likewise, we can observe the impact and influence of science, culture and social life of the Caliphate of Córdoba, through the work carried out through the study of the “Thousand inventions of the Muslims” and their development and dissemination in the Iberian Peninsula. Here we can observe and manipulate different elements and objects of the time recreated in 3 dimensions. And finally to be able to visit the actual physical space today, through “360º Videos Tour” around the recreated spaces. From the walls and ruins of the castle, streets and the gorges of Jucar and Huecar.

“Magical and Mystery Tour around the Cultural Heritage” of Cuenca, is a unique experience that was born with the vision of being a cultural and transmedia platform, as a multicultural support where cultural heritage, history, archeology, society and art in its many facets are accommodated.

In short, a space full of life open to imagination and the discovery of magical worlds, from Islamic to Christian times to the present day.

Crossroads of cultures that today can be explored thanks to immersive technologies from a spectacular perspective. More than ten years of work, which are now coming to light, thanks to immersive technologies, incorporating the virtual visit to the City of Kunka in Islamic times, to integration with current 360º videos, or flights through the city from Google Earth to recognize the vestiges of those ancestors who filled the city of Cuenca with magic.

I want to dedicate a special section to the musical contribution carried out by the extraordinary composer, musician and friend Chema Vilchez. We have treated the sound in a very special way, natural and recreating sensations that allow you to enjoy a total immersive experience, transferring the body and soul to a recent past full of nuances yet to be discovered.

The land of the three cultures brings magic and charm to this first phase of the project. Advanced immersive multimedia technologies in 3D are the powerful tool to create value around Cultural Heritage and a support for the promotion of sustainable and valuable Tourism.

Today, more than 3,000 visitors from around the world have registered their passage through the virtual exhibition, something that in a face-to-face way would have been completely unimaginable due to the pandemic and its impact on culture, museums and exhibitions .

And finally and not least, I want to thank the magnificent team of professionals who have collaborated throughout these years in this project, and Frame.VR and ONE Digital Consulting for their amazing contribution and technological support to the project.

Have a nice and safe day.

Carlos J. Ochoa Fernández ©

The New “Immersive Learning Experience” Paradigm.

Personal highlights from the “Immersive Learning Research Network 2020 Conference” #iLRN2020

Last June, I had the honor of participating in the Immersive Learning Research Network International Virtual Conference held in the VR collaboration platform VirBELA, and through live streams on iLRN’s Youtube channel.

During the 5 days Virtual Event, hundreds of speakers from all continents, conferences, panel discussions, networking meetings, poster sessions, showcases, live demos, and many other social events were organized by an amazing team of professionals and volunteers.

It is evident, that due to the #Covid and its impact worldwide, the spread of virtual events has been exponential, and with it, the opportunity to participate in global events around the world, without having to move from one place to another, suffer the terrible jet-lags and the consequent savings for the pocket. But if there is something that, especially for me, has special relevance, it is the opportunity to share experiences with experts from all over the world, which would otherwise be materially impossible. Having this wide spectrum of professionals in the same setting, event, campus, or networking activity is a unique opportunity that not everyone knows how to take advantage of and organize properly.

The organization of a global event like that is something really complex. But if this is virtual, and you have to coordinate equipment, rooms, people, and technology in real-time and at a distance … this is much more complex and is not available to everyone. This requires planning, resources, teamwork, and good technology partners. And all of this was brilliantly accomplished during Immersive Learning Research Network. So, my first words are of recognition, gratitude, and congratulations to the whole team.

Personally, it was a magnificent experience, and having the opportunity to meet great friends and colleagues was very refreshing and healthy for the mind. There is always that moment, in which you see someone, you approach to greet him … and you realize that you are an avatar, talking to another avatar … but it is you and it is him. That is really mind-blowing and fantastic at the same time. But I’m counting the days when I can really come up in person and give my friend a real hug … congratulations on that. Very good work.

Professionally and academically speaking, I found it very inspiring due to the number of conferences and presentations that I was able to attend and in which I was able to see first-hand, the real use cases of VR in academic institutions, its evolution and ongoing projects , as well as its vision and evolution for the coming years.

At this point, an article that I recently reread about “It will be 2016 the year of the definitive takeoff of VR / AR” comes to mind. And every year it seems that we keep asking ourselves the same question, without being really aware that this technology is implanted in those industries where it provides value, competitive advantages, and cost savings. But it is constantly evolving and there are multiple ways of using it and adapting to the environments of use. The truth is that there is still a long way to go and meetings like this allow us to confront experiences, opinions and evaluate the degree of progress and results of these experiences. But we will talk about this later.

My contribution was concentrated in two main activities: a presentation and the presentation of the Magical and Mistry Tour around the Cultural Heritageshowcase.

The Magical and Mystery Tour around Cultural Heritage of Cuenca, it is a unique project experience that was born with the vision of being a cultural and transmedia platform, as multicultural support where cultural heritage, history, archeology, society, and music are accommodated. In short, a space full of life and spaces for imagination and the discovery of magical worlds, from the Islamic to Christian times to the present day. Crossroads of cultures that can be traveled today thanks to immersive technologies from a unique perspective.

More than ten years of work, from the beginnings of the first Islamic reconstructions to the integration with current 360º videos, or flights around the city from Google Earth to recognize the vestiges of those ancestors who filled the city of Cuenca with magic. Advanced 3d immersive multimedia technologies are a powerful tool to create value around the Cultural Heritage. The Magical and Mystery Tour around the City of Cuenca project is aimed to integrate Virtual Reality technologies and methodological and scientific approaches for the representation of cultures across history.

And last but not least, I want to express my most sincere gratitude to Anna Xygkou for the permanent support, and the amazing intro to my session, and the amazing team with Jonathon Richter, Heather Dodds, Donna McTaggart, Tiago Peres, Mark J. Lee, and all the friends and more I met there…Lorelle Vanfoseen, Karen Alexander, Lucia Binotti, Tim Jackson, Julie Andersen Smithson, Daniel Dyboski-Bryant, Amanda Fox, Rob Theriault, and Patrick O’Shea from Versatilist Podcast…;+)

Have a nice and safe day.

Carlos J. Ochoa Fernández ©