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Tourists strolled down high-tech memory lane with "Reminisce" at Bunratty Folk Park


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Researchers at the University of Limerick's Interaction Design Centre (www.idc.ul.ie) have developed a new interactive experience, "Reminisce", which this week enabled visitors of Bunratty Folk Park in Co. Clare to discover, share and contribute to personal memories linked to buildings, traditions and ways of life of Ireland's past. Bunratty Folk Park displays a great collection of historic buildings, accompanied by live demonstrations of traditional activities.

"Reminisce" which was trialed at the tourist centre this week engaged visitors in a quest for memories and mementoes to add value to their visit: thanks to a simple touch-screen interface placed at the entrance to the Park, visitors could create a profile and then, by means of a "smart" phone, "collect" audio recordings of personal memories by characters from the past scattered at each site, creating a unique collection of information during their visit. They could also record their own memories at each of the cottages, listen to other visitors' comments and share their experience through email and social networking sites at the end of their visit.

"We wanted to create an installation that would be innovative, but also wouldn't take away from the unique atmosphere of Bunratty Folk Park", says Dr. Luigina Ciolfi, the Principal Investigator of the project. "Employing a technology that is extremely easy and familiar to people, such as mobile phones, we want to involve people in the life of the Folk Park and also encourage them to be active and creative".

The Interaction Design Centre is a multidisciplinary research group in the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems at the University of Limerick, focused on the design, use and evaluation of information and communications technologies from a human-centered design perspective: their research is focused on enhancing and supporting people's activities and is grounded on the context of people's experience. The IDC, one of leading interaction design groups in Ireland, has conducted extensive research on the use of ICTs in museums and exhibitions during the past 10 years and has coordinated very successful installations at venues such as The Hunt Museum, Shannon Airport and Limerick's Milk Market.

"Reminisce is a "cloud computing" installation, relying on cutting edge technology" says Marc McLoughlin, Lead Designer of "Reminisce"; "At the same time, it is completely designed from the perspective of the user. We have worked at Bunratty Folk Park for over a year studying how visitor behave and what their favourite parts of the sire are. People love discovering the traditions linked to the houses, and more details about who lived there".

"Reminisce" is part of a research project exploring the utility and potential of technologies such as smart phones, augmented reality and location-based services in outdoor exhibition sites, and it has been supported by Failte Ireland, the University of Limerick Seed Funding initiative and Shannon Heritage.

An initial three day trial of the technology proved very popular with tourists from all over the world this week and it is hoped that an upgraded and advanced version of the installation will return to the Folk Park before the end of the year.


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