The idea of the Zurich City Guide was to build a mobile application based on paper documents, a pervasive medium which is very portable and therefore well suited to mobile tourism. To gain first experiences in the area of tourist applications, we decided to focus on paper maps, only one of the many paper documents used by tourists, and investigate how they could be enhanced by using our interactive paper platform. Since different groups of tourists may have different interests, a goal was to develop a personalisable city map which could provide different information based on the very same paper map.
Therefore, a city map of Zurich was augmented with various links on three different information layers, a Background layer, a Region layer and a Detail layer, to provide supplementary tourist information about Zurich.
A single rectangular active area, covering the entire map and linking to some general information about Zurich, has been defined on the Background layer. By covering the whole map with this active area on the Background layer, we can guarantee that, in case no other information is linked to a user’s selection, at least information associated with that active area is returned. The active area on the Background layer is linked to some general information about Zurich, which is always accessed in the case where no detailed information is available. The second layer, the Region layer, contains links to information about larger regions of the city whereas the topmost layer, the Detail layer, defines link anchors for information about specific buildings or places.
What happens if a user selects a position P(x,y) with the digital pen as shown in the Figure below? P lies within three different active areas defined on each of the three layers but the system will only resolve the link bound to the shape on the topmost layer, in our case the detail layer, and therefore returns the most specific information which happens to be some data about the Grossmünster cathedral.
To personalise a paper map, specific layers may be activated and deactivated based on a user’s preferences. This activation and deactivation of layers enables us to deliver context-dependent annotations based on the current set of active layers. For example, by defining different layers for different activities/interests, such as shopping, eating etc., we can dynamically customise the city map by activating or deactivating some of these layers. Furthermore, by using a "zoom in/out" functionality, repeated selection of the same map area can be used to deactivate the uppermost layers making accessible information linked to active areas defined on lower layers.
Mobile users are, not only limited in terms of the available computing power, but also in the amount of attention they are willing to pay to any digital devices. Most tourists prefer to visit a city with open eyes instead of focusing their eyes on the screen of a Pocket Computer all the time. For the Zurich City Guide, we therefore started to experiment with nonvisual feedback in the form of spoken information generated based on XIMA’s voice output facilities. This enables a user to interact with the city map by the means of both paper and voice recognition for input and voice feedback as an output channel. While the Zurich City Guide was limited to paper maps only, it helped in investigating the general field of information technologies and tourism and provided a foundation for EdFest, a more complex tourism application that was developed for the Edinburgh festivals.
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