Projects: Technology on the Trail Class Projects Spring 2017

The Spring 2017 school term provided the opportunity for senior grad students across multiple disciplines to help shape Virginia Tech’s approach to the study of technology on the trail. This group had the added motivation that they had the opportunity to interact with attendees at the Technology on the Trail Workshop at Virginia Tech, including invited guests Alan Dix, Allison Druin, Ellie Harmon, and Norman Su. Below is a summary of the projects that they undertook.

NOTE: most of the students continued their work on the projects, and many resulted in papers, theses, and dissertations. This post has been and will continue to be updated with links to new papers.

  • Identities and Values Reflected in Tweets Regarding America’s Triple Crown Hiking Trails. Master’s student Abigail Bartolome applied topic analysis to collections of tweets pertaining to three distinct American trails–the Appalachian Trail (AT), the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) to see differences in topic models across the three hiking communities. This research compared the most popular topics from each community with their respective mission statements and values. Abigail featured this work in her M.S. thesis, advised by Edward Fox with committee members Scott McCrickard and Jeff Marion. Abigail is now working on a Ph.D. at Dartmouth University.
  • Would you rather – Probing Tradeoffs with Technology in Hiking and Outdoors Settings Identities and Values Reflected in Tweets Regarding America’s Triple Crown Hiking Trails. Grad students Navya Kondur and Jagath Iyer collected opinions through a “Would you Rather” cultural probe to understand perceptions of humans toward technology in hiking and outdoor settings. This work was continued by Navya toward her M.S. thesis.
  • Augmented Reality for Outdoor Navigation. Wallace Lages investigated how augmented reality can be used to support the creation of new routes on the trail, crafting the design, implementation, and early evaluation of a system for defining waypoints using the Microsoft Hololens. This research describes and compares two techniques for marking, one based on triangulation and another based on perceptual depth judgment. Initial evaluation shows that both techniques offer similar accuracy in long distances and small baselines, and that triangulation can be better for wide baselines. Wallace completed his Ph.D. at Virginia Tech and has taken a faculty position in Virginia Tech’s School of Visual Arts.
  • AwareSpace: Supporting Co-located Document Exploration with Touch, Text-mining and Visualization. Shuo Niu used surface technologies, a tabletop computer, and a vertical large display to support dynamic explorations of textual data—with a focus on social media data like blogs and tweets. The displays highlight hints on possible knowledge of interest, often surprising the authors of the blog. Shuo featured the tool at the Technology on the Trail workshop, surprising workshop invited guests Alan Dix and Ellie Harmon with insights about their own blogs. Shuo featured this work in his Ph.D., which he completed in 2019. Shuo is now an Assistant Professor at Clark University.
  • Zen and the Art of Forest Bathing. Colin Shea-Blymeyer sought to determine if mindful hikers get more out of hiking, and to develop an application to promote mindfulness on the trail. He catalogued a personal experience that demonstrated the scientific and emotional possibilities for this line of research. Colin completed his M.S. degree from Virginia Tech with Ben Jantzen in philosophy.
  • Hiking the Appalachian Trail with Technology. Tim Stelter was my only student who took me up on the challenge to hike 100 miles noting tech experiences along the way for an automatic “A” in the class. (I was joking, but I assumed anyone who did this would earn that grade.) Tim accrued over a dozen different pieces of technology and recruited his father to go with him on a portion of the Appalachian Trail. He took notes and made audio recordings along the way. His attempt attracted the attention of the Roanoke Times, which featured a story about his journey, along with other parts of our workshop. Tim submitted a diary-style writeup for the course. Since the course ended, he has generated 3 position papers at workshops based on his hike, and he is looking to incorporate the lessons learned from the hike into a thesis or dissertation.
  • Modeling Hiking Trails in 3D using GPS Tracks. Phillip Summers crafted visualizations of hiking trails in a 3D interactive environment using geographic information from users traveling the Tour du Mont Blanc who uploaded their data to Wikiloc. The project cleaned raw GPS data, aggregated points on a continuous space disconnected from streets and waypoints. Mont Blanc was chosen because, at the time, it was known for many people uploading GPS data for public use.

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