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Mobile Access to
Cultural Information
content.This research formed part of a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded
project to support learning in context.
The three features at the heart of WorldBoard could form the core of systems built
around a wide range of mobile devices.WorldBoard can be thought of as a spatially
addressable bulletin board, containing geocoded (longitude, latitude, and elevation)
The delivery of the concept reflected a realisation by the WorldBoard devel-
opers that information can seem to be in a physical place, that it can be customised to
reflect user preferences, and that information about properties and attributes associated
with a physical space can be linked to that place.The fact that information can be organ-
ised by its characteristics and viewed according to different `channels' at the request of the
user distinguishes WorldBoard from the standard Web-based interfaces, and allows multiple
means of access that make truly augmented reality applications such as MUSEpad possible.
MUSEpad handheld devices, as enabled with WorldBoard, allow visitors to choose
specific personalised channels which could offer local or global Web content, and will
therefore permit unique, customised tours. The content could range from a scholarly
discussion of a particular work of art, to another visitor's comments, to detailed historical
information about the artist, buyer, or acquisition of the piece.
At the outset of the project, the concerns and needs of the target populations were inves-
tigated in order to determine what functionality would be required of a handheld device.
Audience profiles were developed using observational and interview techniques. In the sub-
sequent design, care was taken to ensure that visitors with impaired vision or hearing, or
mobility problems were able to access meaningful content by using MUSEpad.The project
team concluded that it needed to strike a balance between functionality that would benefit the
majority of users and the desire to enhance access for visitors who may need more assistance.
A primitive application was tested at the Mathers Museum for feasibility and to evaluate its
effectiveness formatively, and different modes of content and authoring were also explored.
One of the strengths of WorldBoard and MUSEpad lies in their extensibility.
Developments of technologies of this kind (as well as the strategies used and theories
advanced) could lead to new modes of access and enhanced user experiences.They could
be used in conjunction with other maturing technologies: natural language processing,
location-based systems, or haptics.While experiments have mainly involved museums,
these technologies are applicable to a broader range of learning and heritage environments.
EQUATOR The City Project
City, a first-phase Equator Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration project,
focuses on the integration of physical and digital interaction by bringing together
researchers from a variety of disciplines to address technical, social and design issues.
155 James Spohrer (1999), "Information in Places" in IBM Systems Journal, vol. 38, no. 4, 1999:
156 Cf. Spohrer (1999), "Information in Places".
157 case study is the result of a questionnaire and e-mail
correspondence between Areti Galani and Dr Matthew Chalmers from the Department of Computing
Science, University of Glasgow, and Martin Donnelly of DigiCULT.The case study process took place
during November/December 2003.
159 Equator is a collaboration between eight academic partners: the Universities of Glasgow, Bristol,
Nottingham, Sussex, Southampton, Lancaster, University College London, and the Royal College of Art. It
is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) for six years from September
2000.The project's ongoing phase examines technology that supports tourist activities in the city.
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