NCSU guide is on your phone

Staff WriterMarch 16, 2010 

  • A WolfWalk iPhone app will be available by summer, but for now iPhone owners and those with other popular devices such as Blackberrys and the Android can access the map simply by typing the web address into their search engine.

    People with mobile devices that lack GPS or other location-finding capabilities can use WolfWalk by manually navigating through the site, and it can be explored via smart phone even off-campus: Users just click on a given building to see the historical information.

    For more information, go to www.lib.ncsu.edu/wolfwalk/

— N.C. State University's campus now tells its own story as you walk through it.

An online map, dubbed WolfWalk by university library officials who introduced it last week, has made the campus interactive by taking advantage of the location-sensing abilities of smart phones.

As people walk on campus, their phones can display old photos and historical information about buildings and other key features, allowing self-guided history tours.

The idea is to bring the university's trove of archived material to a fresh audience, said David Hiscoe, director of communication strategies for the NCSU libraries.

"Not only can you find a place, but you can find out what it looked like 20 years ago, or 100 years ago, and what it means to the university," Hiscoe said.

The map also could lay the groundwork for more elaborate versions, he said.

Increasingly, universities such as NCSU, UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke are tailoring information sources for smart phones so students, faculty and staff have easy access to materials such as maps, directories, calendars and the current location of campus buses.

WolfWalk can be used as a standard online campus map, but it adds a layer of historical data. Stroll near Page Hall, for example, and your Android or iPhone will kick up old photos of the building along with information about its namesake, Walter Hines Page, a member of Cary's founding family, an ambassador to Great Britain and a founder of NCSU.

The initial version of the map includes information about more than 50 sites on campus, and there are plans to add more. It also may be possible later to add features such as oral histories and archival video, said Tito Sierra, the associate head for digital library development, who led the WolfWalk project.

It could even morph into a tool with "augmented reality" features that would allow users to point a smart phone camera at a building or street and have information about it pop up on the screen.

The library, nationally known for its focus on technology, already has a special mobile Web site for library users, allowing them to look up items in the catalog or telling them which computers in the library aren't in use. There is even a Web cam to check the length of the line at the library coffee shop.

The library also introduced an upgraded version of its "Historical State" Web site last week, which allows people more easily to explore the university's 123-year history in depth via material that includes archived photos of the campus and campus life, and digitized versions of old yearbooks and course catalogs.

jay.price@newsobserver.com or 919-812-8551

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