Students create app featuring on campus public art

Students from the Data Analytics in Student Hands program at the Honors College debuted a new app last month to inspire and educate students on campus.

The app, called “UH ARTour,” gives users a real-life guide to the art pieces located around campus and provides information about the artists and characteristics of the works.

Students use the app to navigate art around campus and select different pieces to keep as their favorites. Artworks are divided into categories such as “Arts,” “Professional” and “Cullen North.” Students can tap on the map located at the bottom of the section and each piece in the section tells the user the location. The app will be updated as new art is added or moved.

The project was supervised by Honors College professor Dan Price and UH Public Art Collection curator Michael Guidry.  Price said the goal is to teach students how to effectively position data as a community engagement tool.

“Students are the right kind of people to bring fresh, exciting energy to new forms of community engagement,” Price said in a press release.“The idea is that students don’t become passive in the face of technology and learn to deliver data in innovative ways.”

In addition to working at the Honors College, Price also teaches and writes about art theory. He said he had a lot of contact with the Blaffer Art Museum and the Public Art Collection while working on the project.

“I knew it was a gem hiding in plain sight,” Price said. “After coming up with the general idea of doing something with the Public Art Collection, we approached the provost’s office for summer funding for some students, and the students came up with the idea of making it an augmented reality app.”

Eight students were involved in the app development. One of the students, nutrition junior Hejal Soni, said that despite not being a computer science major, Price and Honors College professor Peggy Lindner took her in to work with them.

“They are great people because they don’t want you to just do a job,” Soni said. “They want you to grow and develop a skill set that you can use in your future career, whatever it may be.”

Although Guidry played a large role, he believes the development of the app was dependent on the students.

“I relied on the students for the overall design and function,” Guidry said. “I supplied the content and just a few suggestions on how the content could be organized, but I allowed them to be creative and make it as user friendly and engaging as possible.

In addition to the current content that the app displays, Guidry would like to add audio and video to further enrich the app’s existing content.

Price said the app took over a year to develop, and the programming framework had to be changed several times.

“The augmented reality parts would only work with some other pieces of software,” Price said. “There’s a bit of a jigsaw puzzle in getting the pieces to work together.”

DASH is currently developing several other apps, though different students are working on each one. Faculty join the process whenever the students reach a new stage in development. Price said that students from the Institute of Community Health would be combining their work with a new healthy community assessment tool, which he hopes will be released in the Spring or Summer 2016.

Price said that he hopes students will use the ARTour app and its outreach will continue to expand.

“I believe that the UH ARTour app is just the beginning of what DASH will do,” Soni said. “DASH has a great group of students and professors that will continuously work hard to help improve our community.”

Students can download the app in the iTunes store and Google Play. A website version of the app is also available.

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