UWF faculty launch smartphone app for world travelers

University of West Florida | news@uwf.edu

Imagine standing at the Grand Canyon, looking down into one of the most popular national parks in the world. You want to learn more about the park, its history and receive input from other visitors’ experiences.  Luckily, there is a wealth of information, photos and videos right at your fingertips.

Better yet, imagine information on thousands of destinations worldwide being delivered to you instantaneously and tailored to your specific location.

A team of history researchers and computer programmers at the University of West Florida has made this notion a reality with two innovations that work hand-in-hand.

The first, TellusPoint, enables the creation and delivery of videos and photos of historical locales via smart phones with GPS capabilities. The second, NextExitHistory, delivers this material for free to iPhone and Android users.

“The idea behind the app was to make discovering history as simple as possible,” said Timothy Roberts, co-creator of the program and member of UWF’s Department of History. “It’s basically a location-based social network and tour guide in the palm of your hand.”

The app currently contains information on about 47,000 historical sites around the world, many with multimedia clips associated with locations.

The app began development in 2007 and was originally engineered for GPS devices. After smart phones began playing a more common role in everyday life, the team decided to tailor it more for iPhone and Android use.

“In the first year, only about 50 sites were added to the app,” said John Clune, chairperson of the Department of History. “After we opened it up to other trusted contributors, usage and interaction really increased.”

Currently, there are other applications similar to NextExitHistory, but most are specific to individual locations. For example, visitors to Yellowstone National Park can download an app that will guide them through the park and provide a rich experience, but its information is limited to that particular park.

Roberts and other members of the team at UWF, including Clune, David Dawson, Robert Wilson and Patrick Moore, hope that NextExitHistory will eventually contain information for a majority of historic sites nationwide.

Right now, the team is working to showcase the app to national clients so that users—and the information and multimedia they will inevitably upload—will increase.

“Eventually, we hope that you can have a rich educational experience whether you’re visiting Paris, France or Paris, Georgia,” said Dawson. “We want to deliver timeless education through a 21st-century medium.”

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