Hyperlab helps Ottawa take a walk in the past
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Dec 26, 2013  |  Vote 0    0

Hyperlab helps Ottawa take a walk in the past

Lansdowne Park history app to be next project

Ottawa East News

Carleton University grad students have created a few fun digital ways to get to know the city's historical landmarks.

Over the past year, Carleton's digital humanities department has worked closely with both architect and archive graduates to develop a mobile app called the Forgotten Worker Quest.

Funded in part by Heritage Canada, the app is aimed at children age eight to 12 and offers a virtual taste of the life of an Irish immigrant worker from the early 1800s.

"People can take a stroll down the canal and learn some history," said Brian Greenspan, the Hyperlab's founding director.

The project focused on Confederation Park and the Rideau Canal. The Hyperlab students were in charge of creating a live, locative museum app, which asks users to gather tools, and learn about diseases, avoid explosions and malaria outbreaks all while attempting to complete various tasks.

The group worked with the city's Bytown Museum staff to gather information about appropriate artifacts for the app.

Even though the game is made for children, Greenspan said anyone can go down to the canal and take on the quest.

As far as creating active history lessons, Greenspan said this app is just the beginning - up next is a project centred on Lansdowne Park.

"It's a huge site that's been so important to the community," Greenspan said. "You name it and it has such an important influence for history. And now, my main concern is this once public land is being handed over for private interest."

It may only in be an opportunity to view the historic site in a virtual sense, but Greenspan said this project could give a portion of Lansdowne back to the community.

"It will be a way to make the space available again," he said.

The professor said he would like to make the project one that includes history as well as a "what could have been" aspect of the site, adding that this way, people can visualize what Lansdowne Park could look like in 50, 100 or even 150 years.

"We are planning on making it an open interface, to make it collaborative," he said.

The app will be designed as a portal, so at some point the community can participate in helping expand the structure of the app.

The design space for the students is quite a comfy one, with the lab itself including a game room, a computer lab station and reading room.

He added, unlike a lot of graduate studies, this lab allows students to work together, in what would otherwise be lonely thesis study.

"Basically students can bounce ideas off each other," Greenspan said.

The lab, he said, offers a space for students to study the impact computer technology has on humans - including gaming, mobile apps, computer programs and gaming accessories, including Garage Band guitars, steering wheels and light sabers.

"Typically when you are playing computer games, there is a tug of war struggle between emersion and interactivity," Greenspan said.

"Designers want to find the perfect balance. That is what we study here."

Graduates also study the impact storytelling has had in a computer-age society.

"It's the human side of a digital world," Greenspan explains.

"Everything from how a story travels over different platforms to different modes of storytelling."

Funding for the Lansdowne Park project is still unknown, but Greenspan said he hopes to get started on the project sometime in the new year.

Tourists, residents alike are welcome to take the Forgotten Worker Quest by visiting www.passageshistoriquesheritagepassages.ca/angeng/application_mobile-mobile_application on a mobile device.

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