Smart app shows inside of Horseshoe buildings
"The first couple of weeks the students just brainstormed on various ideas along the lines of, ‘What could you do with a mobile phone like this, and how could you use a location awareness to know where you were and pull up something of interest?'
"Gradually, we converged on this project as something that could be done in 15 weeks and end up with close to a 100 percent professional product. It's not really a game, but once you get an app like this built out you can change the content and the programming and easily put it into something else, like a scavenger hunt.
"The hard part of the programming is getting all the pieces to fit together with the maps, overlays, and the images," said Buell. "It's not hard dealing with the content once you have it. So this project is partly an adaptation to what we could undertake that was interesting and relevant."
The 10 students were drawn from three different computer science courses. They had worked as programmers and helped come up with the design and structure of the overall software.
Once the Android app is working, the next project will be to port it to the iPhone, "a huge difference because the programming is very different," Buell said.
The group has also drawn on the expertise of faculty members in the University's Digital Humanities Initiative who offered guidance on such things as the app's visual elements and other factors that would add to its user friendliness and appeal.
Buell anticipates that once the app is perfected for both Android and iPhones, it could be adapted to a wide variety of other campus uses.
These could include wider virtual tours of the campus, plant or museum tours envisioned by Allison Marsh, an assistant professor of history who supervises the museum track in the history department's public history program, or applications like teaching outdoor courses that link GPS coordinates with radio frequency ID chips positioned at various locations on campus.
"You could do a lot of fun applications like this and even expand it to Columbia and the Vista," Buell said.