Forget About It: Signage Prototype for Tagging the Physical for later Digital Interaction

The Visit: memory prosthetics.
Light weight tagging in the physical for future reference in the digital

students gathered, listening to a poster presentation

Each year in June, Sixth Form students visit the university to get a sense of what areas they might like to study if they decide to go to university. Departments have demonstrations and posters set up for students to get a flavour of each group. They see many posters, talk with many students and professors. That's a lot of information to manage.

For their visit to computer science, we gave students a way to keep track of demonstrations that interested them without having to remember them.

First, we placed an iButton dock in front of each poster and demonstration.

Second, we gave each student an iButton. iButton image Each iButton has a unique id. We asked students to register their iButtons, if they wished, with their name and email address to associate their ibutton with them.

Then, as students went around the room, if they were interested in learning more about a particular project being presented, they could dock their iButton in the iButton dock. This would register an event saying that the student had visited this particular poster.

map of room with list of visitors at posters Students could also see where other students were tagging posters. To make how the system worked more transparent, we set up a display show both a list of who was visiting what poster and a map to show where that poster was. A radar blip would fire on the map if someone docked at that location.


Signage Technologies
from the " Behind the Scenes" page of Visit03

Messaging System
Various software components were running on a number of computers and servers, communicating via the elvin content based messaging system. This allows software clients to "subscribe" to receive particular types of message, and to "publish" messages themselves.

Each time an iButton was docked or un-docked, a notification was broadcast detailing the id and location of that iButton, along with whether it was an arrival or departure.

Process Control
A number of "process control" clients listen for the notifications and fire off events when they are received. For example, one client listens for arrivals and departures and logs these by asserting them as RDF into the triplestore . Another client queries the triplestore to retrieve further information about the person who has arrived or departed, which is then re-broadcast as another notification and in turn used by the applications.

Dynamic Web Site
Finally, the Preview Day Website queries the triplestore to determine which of the demonstrations you visited, and uses a link server to generate a personalised page detailing further information relating to those demonstrations.

Third, when students wished, they could visit a web page we had set up for them, enter their email address, and find a web page that showed them the posters and demos they had tagged.

view of the web page for the tagged posters

The web page for the visit provided information about the poster, and links to related information. More importantly, in the context of their visit in particular, each entry provided links to courses that the students would take if they wanted to build what they had seen.

We also provided an information page about how the Signage Visit demo itself worked. Our hypothesis was that having course-based information available to students in a context that they had already determined was of interest to them would be more meaningful than if they were simply presented with the course calendar (a rather dry document)

Each item tagged, therefore, becomes part of a collection, with associated information about the item collected. That associated information, in this case, is based on its context: a visit by students to check out potential areas of study.

Approximately 80 students registered iButtons. During the event, over 7000 events were logged, and over the course of the following two weeks over 30 students returned more than once to explore the web site. During the event itself, many students commented on the use of ibuttons as "good idea."

This was our first test of the system. We plan a more thorough evaluation of the interaction and the use of the system over time. This study will take place during the HCI03 conference in Bath, from Sept 10-12, 03.


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