Debugging Geo-Fence technologies with schoolchildren in a 19th century schoolhouse

On Wednesday May 7th, RIT MS HCI and Allendale Columbia School students and faculty ran our mobile pilot test at Genesee Country Village Museum. As pilot tests go, we ran into a few bugs. In particular, we run into bugs at geo-fences (a geo fence is a GPS coordinate with a mathematical virtual radius drawn around a latitude and longitude). When the physical visitor collides with this digital artifact, we deliver contextually relevant digital content to the visitor.

We were not sure why our video content wasn’t playing correctly at the geo-located schoolhouse. We took the opportunity to use the 19th century schoolhouse as a schoolhouse. The Allendale Columbia students sat with their 19th century tablets (hand held chalk boards) while RIT faculty began to explain the notion of the Geo-Fences and why we may be running into problems. After about fifteen minutes we came up with a number of reasons why our video content wasn’t playing with our hand-held chalk boards. Some potential bugs could be related to:

  • 4G video streaming issues
  • distance from 4G towers
  • AS servers may have been slower
  • GPS coordinate was off 15-20 feet
  • problems with the iOS code
  • Geo-Fence was too small, etc
  • Video mp4 format could be corrupted,

After collecting these possibilities we brought them to our development team at RIT the next day. Out of all the potential problems it was “problems with the iOS code”. The development teams fixed the bugs to have a successful usability test on May 14th with school students from Syracuse, NY.

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Evaluating NYSCA Mobile Experiences for Tourism Project

In early December of 2013, seventeen fifth-grade school students from Allendale Columbia School were invited to experience the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), Mobile Experiences for Tourism Project mobile prototype. Each student was between the ages of 10-11 years old and had been to Genesee Country Village & Museum  in the past. Before the evaluation the 17 students were selected to be in groups averaging 2-3 students. Before the evaluation students were given a brief UI tutorial. During the evaluation, researchers shadowed the student groups. After the evaluation a short survey followed by a short interview was given.

The survey contained 27 questions with a Likert scale from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree” based on our design strategy. We presented statements relating to the heritage story, digital characters and user interfaces navigation. Our goal was to assess the school student’s enjoyment and if our interaction design strategy and decisions were substantiated.

Our evaluation shows that our strategy, not only aided our researchers to think hard about the careful transitions between digital and physical space, but also gave us an opportunity uncover new methods of mobile heritage storytelling in the process. After the evaluation, the school students were very eager for more heritage storytelling. School students thought that:

  1.  the heritage story was fun and engaging (100%),
  2. they could easily navigate pioneer settlement with the information provided in the story (82%),
  3. they felt the digital characters added mystery and made the entire field trip more interesting compared to a normal GCVM tour guide (88%) and,
  4. they would be interested in repeat visits if the mobile application gave seasonal narrations during the year (94%).

Our evaluation also provided areas for design improvement. School students were mainly natural when taking the time to explore the individual locations e.g. Blacksmith Shop. The majority of students spent too much time looking at the mobile device while moving from location to location. These areas of improvement will help shape the next design iterations as we evaluate our strategy and heritage stories at GCVM.

Future Work
The results showed that school students would like to create their own heritage story (88%). We are collaborating with Allendale Columbia School students to deploy their own heritage stories at GCVM spring 2014. We have conducted workshops to investigate, design and evaluate mobile experiences for heritage storytelling. We will continue to evaluate the mobile prototype to inform our mobile user experience design decisions.

 Special Thanks to the students and faculty of Allendale Columbia for participating in the evaluation, and as always, thank you Genesee Country Village and Museum and Edinburgh Napier University.

Press Release: RIT enhances the tourism experience with mobile innovations

Faculty and students at Rochester Institute of Technology are using mobile technologies to engage visitors of historical destinations in the Greater Rochester area. The mobile design strategy, called Brick City Tours, personalizes the tourism experience using digital storytelling, cultural heritage and interactive arts, such as augmented reality.

New ReleaseRIT is collaborating with VisitRochester, Greater Rochester’s official tourism promotion agency, to design mobile experiences that personalize and capture tourists’ visits at the Genesee Country Village and Museum. The technology is also designed to scale to many of VisitRochester’s other top destinations. The Mobile Experiences for Tourism Project is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Funding for the project comes from a $52,958 award from the 2012 Regional Economic Development Council Awards and a matching $52,958 contribution from RIT and VisitRochester.

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NYSCA Grant Project Kick Off Meeting

On Friday March 22nd, we met with the CEO Genesee Country Village & Museum (GCVM- https://www.gcv.org) and his top 12 representatives in Mumford New York. GCVM is a nineteenth-century living history museum in western New York. RIT officially began collaborations with GCVM on the Mobile Experiences for Tourism Project. Our goal is to deliver mobile services to historical locations before, during and after visits for youths in middle and high school.

This project is funded by New York Council on the Arts, Rochester Institute of Technology and VisitRochester.

GCVMinsideHouse