Technological advancements in the last few years have created a sea change in the way information is captured and presented: technologies such as 3D scene reconstruction from ordinary digital photos, gigapixel images, and interactive maps have become common. These new, exciting technologies mark a shift from earlier forms of media by giving significant navigational and exploratory control to the user, but do not offer much in terms of narrative or storytelling capabilities. On the other hand, established media such as video, audio, and text give us powerful ways to communicate and narrate a story, but do not encourage exploration by the user. Our RIN technology aims to unify these multiple information streams into a single coherent, cohesive, and navigable experience.
What does "interaction with a narrative" mean?
Typically, viewing of traditional narratives such as movies has been a passive experience, where the viewer is limited to the path the content author has defined. The viewer does not have the option of deviating from the narrative to explore, say, an interesting sculpture, or a different room, or a painting that the narrative’s path does not explicitly cover.
While providing a large amount of information about various things is possible with traditional forms of media, the narrative itself can become very large and cumbersome due to its linear nature. Furthermore, traditional narratives afford no avenue for open-ended exploration. On the other hand, RIN enables content authors to create narratives that contain a large amount of information without impacting the flow of the story by enabling viewers to explore rich interactive visualizations on their own at any time.
THE RICH INTERACTIVE NARRATIVE TECHNOLOGY
One of the most critical tasks in creating a new media format and narration method is to define an effective data model. We have defined, in the course of this project, a data model that is efficient, robust, and extensible, and which is a foundational building block in creating RINs. The new approach that RINs take for content delivery necessitates a new kind of player that enables the user to interact with and explore the narrative. We have built such a content player on the Microsoft® Silverlight™ platform, taking advantage of available technology to deliver an interactive experience to the viewer.
We have also built a new authoring tool that utilizes a graphical interface to simplify content creation; this essentially works as a WYSIWYG tool. Both the player and the authoring tools are but instances of the way the data model can be used to deliver digital narratives—other implementations are entirely possible. Another key aspect of RIN is its extensibility; it is designed to incorporate present and future forms of interactive experiences. We have already incorporated several key visualization experiences into the system: maps, gigapixel image navigation, a visual content browser, and others. With these built-in experiences, one can create a very wide variety of compelling content without any programming.