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Thursday, December 18, 2014

From dusty tomes to your smartphone

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By William Aranda / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Torran Kahleck, the UNM student who designed UNM Pocket Archivist, demonstrates how the new app works Friday morning. The new app can be downloaded for free on iTunes.

A new smartphone application allows users to take the reins in their exploration of UNM, offering interactive tours of the campus and its rich history.

First made available on iTunes June 6, the UNM Pocket Archivist, which is available without an internet connection, includes an interactive map of main campus, historical building information, photos, three walking tours and information on points of interests within various buildings, according to application details on iTunes.

The app includes three tours: UNM Historic Buildings, UNM Campus Arboretum and UNM Public Outdoor Art.

Terry Gugliotta, University archivist, said the reason for creating the app was to put a practical history of the University in the hands of those interested.

“The goal really is to inform people about the history of UNM and make it easy for people,” Gugliotta said. “We just wanted to make a more modern way of getting the information out to people — something more interactive.”

Gugliotta came up with the idea of UNM Pocket Archivist when she realized that much of the information and history she had unearthed about the University during her time as archivist was not recorded, she said.

“I’ve been here on the UNM campus for 29 years,” Gugliotta said. “There’s so much in my head that will never be written down, and I thought that I’ve got to get the bones of a tour out there. I had one online, but of course an app is the most modern way of doing a tour.”

Gugliotta was then able to team up with a technology-savvy student in order to convert all of her information into what would become the UNM Pocket Archivist, she said.

Torran Kahleck, a general engineering major hired by Gugliotta to design the app, said one of the main considerations in designing the app was to present this historical information in a more usable and interesting way for students and families desiring to explore the University.

“I wanted to put maps in there,” Kahleck said. “We started to think about how it could be useful to students. If we just put historical information into the application I didn’t think that students would be using it that often. So, rather than just having information, we decided to plot it with a map. We then came up with the idea to make the map itself interactive.”

Kahleck said he wanted to incorporate a type of technology called ‘augmented reality,’ with which users can use a device’s camera and, combined with GPS mapping, see a separate image that the designer wants them to see.

“I thought it would be kind of cool to put pictures from, like, 1920 over the buildings when you held it up, but I still don’t know how to do that,” Kahleck said, “I don’t know if that will end up happening with this app or not, but I wanted to at least dip my toe in.”

However, neither Kahleck nor Gugliotta are done with the app yet, they said.

“We actually do want to approach new student orientation because I used to train them on what to say about the buildings. And we’ll add more tours,” Gugliotta said. “We are going to add a prospective student tour for the Admissions department. We really want it to be an app that a parent sitting at home can say, ‘My kid is in Dane Smith Hall. What does Dane Smith look like? What’s in Dane Smith?’”

The goal is to have a much more complete app by the time new students arrive in the fall, Gugliotta said.

Zach Pavlik is assistant news editor at the Daily Lobo. Contact him at assistant-news@dailylobo.com or via Twitter @zachpavlik.