The future of location-based experiences

Steve Benford (University of Nottingham'sMixed Reality Laboratory) recently wrote a JISC Technology and Standards Watch report called Future location-based experiences which is of great interest for people into the locative media area.

This Technology Watch report considers the relevance of location-based experiences to education, discussing potential applications, reviewing the underlying technologies and identifying key challenges for the future.

The research community has already demonstrated a variety of location-based experiences that are of relevance to education including: information services and tour-guides in which information is delivered in situ; educational games in which a combination of mobile and online users learn together; support for field trips in which the technology provides access to learning materials during a visit to a site of special historical or scientific interest; and support for field science in which learners actively gather data from the environment for subsequent analysis back at base. (...) This report concludes that location-based experiences could indeed introduce significant benefits for education in schools, colleges and universities, especially when they connect location-specific data delivery and capture to subsequent reflection and abstraction back in the ‘classroom’. However, some serious challenges need to be met first. Technical challenges include dealing with the uncertainty of positioning and connectivity and also supporting interoperability between the very diverse set of technologies involved, in particular by developing flexible middleware support. Organisational challenges involve addressing serious privacy concerns, integration with current e-learning services and dealing with the potential culture clash involved in encouraging widespread use of mobile devices in educational environments. Recommendations are for the educational community to conduct a series of pilot experiments on different wireless test-beds while consulting closely with users and their representatives over privacy issues and with mobile operators about future service provision.

The report covers pretty well the are of location-based services, offering interesting insights related to potential challenges. It a good compendium to the last Communication of the ACM issue I mentionned last week.