April 15-18, 2009
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Interactions: Description

Mobile guides and context-specific educational mobile games   go to paper

Kris Gabriëls, Hasselt University, Belgium
Kris Luyten, Hasselt University, Belgium
Karel Robert, Hasselt University, Belgium
Jolien Schroyen, Hasselt University, Belgium
Daniël Teunkens, Hasselt University, Belgium
Karin Coninx, Expertise Centre for Digital Media (EDM) / Hasselt University, Belgium
Eddy Flerackers, Hasselt University, Belgium
Elke Manshoven, Provincial Gallo-Roman Museum, Belgium

Over the last decades, the museum sector made many efforts to shift the focus from objects to visitor groups and their overall experience of the visit. One of the strategies applied to improve the visitor experience, was the development of interactive mobile guides. This strategy clearly pays off to make museum visits more attractive, especially for visitor groups that are traditionally difficult to win over, like youngsters. The applicability, effect and behaviour of these kind of technologies however, remain hard for museums or heritage sites to assess. Moreover, every museum or heritage site has its own specific context according to which a mobile guide implementation should be tailored. Content presentation (narrative, thematic ...), location (indoor or outdoor, proximity of the objects ...), scale (duration of an average visit, extent of the museum or site), target groups ... all take part in the complex context that constitutes a visit.

To meet the variety of contexts a mobile guide should respond to, there is a clear need for a generic, though flexible, framework that aids in the realization of context-specific mobile guides. We created such a generic mobile guide framework. This framework supports three core services that contribute to an overall visitor experience in accordance with the context of the visit: location-detection, personalization and communication. On top of this software framework, several mobile guides can be developed. In this way, we provide a flexible solution to tailor mobile guides to the specific requirements of the target environment.

In the ARCHIE project, we used this framework to develop a mobile museum game for youngsters, visiting a museum during a school trip. Large scale evaluations have shown the potential power of our approach both to enhance the motivation and increase the attractiveness of museum learning and heritage education for this target group. Based on our experiences in designing and evaluating our mobile game, we propose a set of basic guidelines that steer the realization of educational mobile games for youngsters. These guidelines are applicable for both heritage sites and the cultural and tourist sector. The main guidelines we present relate to:

  • the design process and the involvement of the end-user throughout this process;
  • designing (game) concepts that capture the key content of the museum or site and create good learning environments;
  • designing for social interaction and collaborative learning;
  • the importance of an evocative graphical design.

Our experience building mobile guides for the cultural and tourist sector, revealed a strong need for further guidance with regard to the realization of mobile ICT solutions. To meet this demand, we are currently setting up an expertise centre that includes a demo- and test-infrastructure in which prototypes of different institutions can be tested and evaluated. This infrastructure gives us the opportunity to refine and steer the guidelines proposed above and to verify mobile guide solutions in different contexts. In this way, the centre allows us to offer full support for the development process of a mobile ICT application for the cultural and tourist sector.

Mini-Workshop: Handhelds: Mobile Guides [Mini-Workshop]

Keywords: mobile guides, design guidelines, heritage education, social interaction, games, personalization