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.

Schoolchildren Investigating Mobile User Experiences

On Thursday, November 21, 2013, MS HCI faculty and students from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) ran a collaborative workshop with 5th and 8th grade school students at Allendale Columbia School (ACS) in Pittsford, NY. The goal of our workshops are to create opportunities for school children to experience the interaction design process of cutting edge mobile technologies and services in the tourism and heritage domain. Rather than children being the consumers of mobile technologies, children will have the opportunity to design mobile experiences for heritage storytelling at tourism destinations in the greater Rochester area. We are using technologies funded under the New York State Council on the Art, Mobile Experiences for Tourism Project 2013. We are designing our mobile experiences around the heritage destination of Genesee Country Village & Museum.

Schoolchildren Investigating Mobile User Experiences is the initial collaborative phase between RIT and ACS. This phase consists of  investigation workshops  aimed at providing experiential learning opportunities geared for children as our user-group. Our first investigation workshop included 50 children divided up into two sessions, 1-heritage storytelling and 2-digital souvenirs workshops. School students were asked in the first workshop to investigate how two places at a heritage destination could be related through narratives. The school students were given post-its and told to document all possible characters, settings, themes, plots and scenarios on a post-it. Then the school students were assigned to place any narrative configurations (of post-its) on the front board for an audience of their peers to critique. This allowed the ACS students creative freedom to develop stories they would like to see at GCVM, and permitted the researchers to educate the school students about creating  heritage stories. A heritage story is a cinematic method to deliver digital content through digital agents, while creating continuity from point-of-interest to point-of-interest at a historical site. 

Heritage stories included a mystery story, a heroic story, and a horror story within the nineteenth century living history museum. For example, “The Mystery Story” involves a case of wrongful indictment. The town homeless character is falsely accused of theft. The real culprit is a wealthy land owner. GCVM visitors attempt to prove innocence while learning the moral lesson of “don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” Souvenirs from this narration include mockups of the stolen goods. 

During Spring of 2014, we will be iterating and creating multimedia assets into our system at RIT. School students will have first hand experience designing for location-based mobile technologies to deliver a narrative such as “The Mystery Story“. Our workshop collaborations will work into three phases: Schoolchildren (1-Investigating), (2-Designing), and (3-Evaluating) Mobile User Experiences at heritage locations in the greater Rochester area.

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Summary of Blended Interactions Workshop 10.3.13

About:
On October 3rd, the Blended Interactions Studio at RIT conducted its first interaction design workshop. The topic of the workshop was mobile user experience design for digital tourism services. Over 50 designers, practitioners and researchers arrived for presentations, focus groups and pizza while learning, using and participating in interaction design principles derived from Blended Theory.

Presentations:
Professor David Benyon from Edinburgh Napier University presented foundational topics in blended theory to inform the Interaction Design process for mix reality experiences. Senior Research Fellow Oli Mival, also from Edinburgh Napier University, showcased his project prototype called the “Jupiter Art Land Project”. Their mobile strategy used geo trigger events to deliver contextually relevant information to the visitor, while seeking to deliver art works from present and past installations. UX Director Brian O’Keefe, from the Blended Interactions Studio, showcased the latest prototype from the Mobile Experiences for Tourism Project funded by New York Council on the Arts. The demo showcased how geo-fences, photography and digital way finding supplemented educational content to historical locations.  Stephen Mokey presented his successfully defended MS HCI thesis. His research evaluated audio methodologies to the touring visitors at Genesee Country Village Museum. Also, three other RIT MS HCI candidates presented their in-progress capstone proposals in blended spaces and interactions design.

Workshop:
Professors David Benyon and Brian O’Keefe led the workshop, working with five student groups to practice blended theory using the new I Love New York, Haunted History Trail (HHT) as our domain and domain. Key stakeholders from Genesee Chamber of Commerce Tourism Professional Association were invited to give further context and insight of this project from a local and state level. The project wrapped up with five student groups presenting their interaction ideations around embedding technology into haunted history locations in New York State.