Partnership gives boost to interactive guide project

People can now take a tour of the East Midlands’ cultural highlights in the palm of their hand, thanks to the work of a De Montfort University academic and a Leicestershire-based multimedia business.

Professor of Digital Creativity Martin Rieser worked closely with the team at Cuttlefish Multimedia Ltd on the development of Empedia – an online resource that means that interactive guides to local places of interest are now just a click away on a computer or mobile phone.

The service hosts a growing collection of online maps, audio tours, video and interactive guides – including guides to De Montfort University, Leicester’s Cultural Quarter and the city’s Blue Plaque scheme – that can all be accessed via the Empedia website or an iPhone app.

And because the Empedia player can be embedded in any organisation’s website, it allows museums and galleries to bring their own websites to life with tailor-made interactive guides.

Sean Clark, director of Cuttlefish and a PhD student at DMU, said: “We wanted to make it easier for museums, galleries and tourism organisations in the East Midlands to create and share interactive maps, audio tours, picture trails and video guides.

“What Empedia does is to support the display of text, images and the playback of audio and video, while providing simple mapping tools for creating interactive trails.

“Empedia is different from other products in this area as it incorporates both mobile and desktop players. This allows you to take multimedia content with you and play it back as you explore historical and cultural sites.

“Having Martin on board was a great boost: his background in digital creativity injected some invaluable expertise in the project and allowed us to achieve things we didn’t think we’d be able to achieve.”

The collaboration between DMU and Cuttlefish was the result of a shorter Knowledge Transfer Partnership (sKTP) – a government-funded programme designed to help businesses improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of the knowledge, technology and skills available within UK universities.

“This sKTP was based on injections of expertise at key stages of the product’s development,” said Professor Rieser.

“Cuttlefish’s idea was an innovative one – and one that DMU was very happy to support since it aligned with a number of experimental projects we were developing.

“On the back of this collaboration, Cuttlefish and DMU worked together on another Empedia project: a commission to create a Mobile Blue Line trail that traces the early life of DH Lawrence in Nottinghamshire.”

The Empedia project was developed with financial support from the Museums, Libraries & Archive Council’s Renaissance East Midlands initiative.

The free Empedia app for iPhone is available from the Apple App Store.

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