Students Create Interactive Mobile Touring App

As it looked for new ways of reaching prospective students, the Enrollment Management and Marketing Division approached computer science majors Ryan Curtis ’10 and Scott Markoski ’10 for ideas.

The end result was Gaido, a one-of-a-kind touring application smart phone owners can utilize for unique, interactive experiences.

With the program’s content manager, users can create tours for any destination. Curtis and Markoski focused on the Stonehill campus when developing the application for their Senior Capstone project.

“Many prospective students are ‘stealth’ tourists when they come to campus and don’t participate in guided tours,” explains Curtis. “We felt a good solution to this problem of how to connect with our stealth visitors could be the creation of a mobile touring application that anyone could download on their smart phone and take a fully-featured tour on campus.”

Users can select from a number of themed tours, including academics, athletics, student life as well as a general tour of campus.

“If users chose the academics theme, that will take them on a tour of Stonehill’s academic buildings. A student life theme will tour dormitories, recreational spaces, and so on,” explains Markoski.

In addition to navigational assistance, the application offers dynamic content from which users can choose. “Users can look through different photos, view videos, or read text when they arrive at a certain location or building on campus,” notes Curtis.

“For instance, when the user arrives at Stanger Hall, a video of a professor talking about the computing facilities within the building pops up on the phone,” says Markoski.

The two found that existing smart phone tour applications lacked exciting features and to resolve this issue, they introduced the idea of interactive content to help make a tour of Stonehill’s campus a memorable one.

Imagine walking past the welcome sign along the road near the Sally Blair Ames Sports Complex and suddenly your name appears on it. Then, as you walk by the quad clock, you hear chimes echoing across the campus. If you have a smart phone, these scenarios aren’t just a figment of your imagination-they can be a reality with Gaido.

“The fun thing about the interactive content feature is that the possibilities are endless,” says Associate Professor of Computer Science Bob Dugan, who mentored Curtis and Markoski throughout the project.

“For example, when users walk into the MacPháidín Library, a prompt with a call number for a book comes up on their phone. They are asked to locate that book in the library and when they do, they find a free Stonehill bumper sticker inside it.”

Another problem Curtis and Markoski resolved was keeping operating costs low. “In our research, we found that hosting a phone application is quite expensive,” notes Markoski. Rather than maintain content on their own server, they decided hosting content on free third-party sites like YouTube and Google’s Picasso, was the most effective solution.

The use of third-party sites and a user-friendly content management system, called GaidoMaker, allows anyone to create his or her own tour of a particular place, from Disney World to the renowned museums and historic cathedrals of Venice, Italy.

“This is a great example of what can be accomplished when you put a couple of smart, talented computer scientists together to try and solve a problem,” says Dugan. “Amazing things happen.”

Gaido is currently available for free in the Android marketplace and next semester, junior computer science major Dan Ellis will be working on an iPhone version of the application.