12 May 2010

OU interactive tabletop computer helps tourists explore Cambridge

Researchers at The Open University have designed a novel application for the Microsoft Surface, an interactive tabletop computer to help families and groups visiting Cambridge make the most of their time in the city. The multi-touch table will allow several people to use the application at the same time and plan an itinerary for their visit.

The application, hosted by Visit Cambridge at the Cambridge Tourist Information Centre, will display a wide range of visitor attractions with additional information suggesting how to make the most of your stay.

Paul Marshall, Researcher in the Department of Computing, said: “The tabletop planner will allow up to four people to individually decide what they would like to do, and then negotiate what to prioritise before printing out a combined itinerary. We carried out research and found that this kind of shared planning often doesn't happen, so we're interested to study if the technology will enhance people’s experience”.

Frankie McGhee, Tourism Services Manager, said: “The multi-touch application is a fantastic way of encouraging visitors to the City to experience for themselves some of the excellent things to see and do whilst they are here. Plus it's not only Mum or Dad that decides - the whole family can plan their day out together".

The research was carried out as part of The Open University’s ShareIT project, which aims to find real-life applications for technology research. The tabletop planner will be launched on 12 May 2010 and will be available for a month, during which the research team will evaluate its use by visitors.

Further information
Paul Marshall, Researcher at The Open University, Tel: +44 (0)7986 654614 or

Editor’s Notes
· The Open University’s interdisciplinary ShareIT project, funded by the EPSRC (2007–2010), is investigating how a new generation of shareable technologies, designed specifically for more than one person to use at a time, can enable groups to collaborate more effectively.

· The Open University climbed 23 places to 43rd in the UK’s latest Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2008), securing a place in the UK’s top 50 higher education institutions. Results showed that more than 50% of the University’s research is internationally excellent (3*), with a significant proportion world-leading (4*).

· The Open University is the UK’s largest university and the world leader in distance education, and celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2009. It has more than 200,000 students in over 40 countries. Of these, more than 1,100 are postgraduate research students.

· The latest edition of the Open University’s Research Highlights brochure can be downloaded from:

· Open Research Online (ORO), the University’s freely accessible repository of research publications, is available at: ORO has around 30,000 visitors from 170 different countries each month, and is currently ranked the fifth best higher education repository in the UK by the Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR).

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