Funding for virtual and augmented reality research to support sustainable Arctic marine tourism

Dr. Pat Maher, Dean of Teaching and Professor of Physical and Health Education, along with colleagues from Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Japan, Greenland and the Faroe Islands, recently received approximately $52,000 CAD in funding from the Norwegian government for a research project titled Virtual and Augmented Learning: Lessons from Ex-situ Tourism.

The project extends the work of this group of scholars interested in sustainable Arctic marine tourism and involves the development of a Virtual Reality (VR)/Augmented Reality (AR) experience that will connect individuals and groups across isolated communities for the purposes of research and education related to Arctic tourism.  

The research group has collaborated for the past five years under the University of the Arctic Thematic Network in Northern Tourism, which Dr. Maher leads, and has received ongoing funding from a number of other sources. A focus of the group has been on the feasibility of developing “ex-situ” tourism, which allows communities to benefit from tourism-related expenditures without actual visits of tourists to vulnerable locations.

Nipissing Masters students in Norway
Nipissing University Masters students in Norway

This latest funding will assist the researchers in adapting their work in response to barriers caused by the pandemic. The VR/AR experience will be developed specifically for the Faroe Islands as a tool for ex-situ tourism and to virtually bring researchers, students and tourists together with communities to collaborate on the topic.

“What makes me proud to be involved in this project is the way it has pivoted,” said Maher. “We've been very good at making academic linkages to industry and communities over the past five years. With the pandemic, we just couldn't achieve this in the same way, so VR and AR was a natural fit as we transition into a more digital and virtual world.”
 

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