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Students create a better museum guide

Students create a better museum guide

FRIDAY, February 10, 2017
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The “Friendly Guide” phone app will even play out an historic battle for users

A student group in Vietnam called Make a Difference has developed a phone app that can guide museum visitors among the displays, explaining each in turn.
The “Friendly Guide” application might, in the near future, eliminate the need for human guides in Vietnam’s museums altogether, says Khuc Huu Huy, who leads the group of final-year Information-technology students in Hanoi.
With the app installed on their phones and an Internet connection, visitors can view the image of any artefact on display and read information about it.
 “For some historical events, such as the Battle of Bach Dang, for example [a 1288 Vietnamese victory over the Yuan Chinese], visitors can watch a re-enactment of the battle, so it’s a livelier and more interesting way to learn about an event rather than simply reading information,” Huy says.
The application was tested at the National History Museum in Hanoi in November before being formally unveiled at FPT University. User feedback prompted some alterations in the content and the app became more user-friendly. It’s expected to be released in the next few months.
“I think it’s wonderful,” a Scottish visitor at the National History Museum enthused. “There is so much more to learn and it makes it easy for first-time visitors to get information more quickly. I like that it connects directly to each artefact. I would love for it to be available in English.”
The application has a promising market beyond museums and could be exported, says Nguyen Duc Long, director of the Hi-tech Business Incubation Centre. “In the long term we’ll use the app not only in museums, but also at other tourist attractions in Vietnam,” Huy says.
The student group is passionate about helping society in simple ways and hopes the app will spark new ideas and make life more convenient, says Huy.
“The team members are all interested in start-ups and app development and some of us have had small start-up projects and created apps before, but the commercial value and feasibility wasn’t that high.
“We came up with a lot of ideas before settling on this one. We spent time discussing ideas and feasibility and eventually agreed on Friendly Guide. It took six months to develop. 
“The aim was just to make a small contribution to improving the museum experience for both local and foreign visitors,” Huy says.
“We’re about to graduate, so we’re under pressure to find jobs, but we still wanted to pursue our passion for developing applications that make life a little easier.”
Vietnam has 150 museums, 20 of them in Hanoi, and none has ever used this type of application before.
“Vietnamese people generally aren’t very interested in visiting museums, so we hope our app will help the museums attract more visitors,” says team member Nguyen Huu Quyet. 
The Auto Guide system is common in many museums overseas and some in Vietnam, but it’s only an audio guide. Friendly Guide by contrast offers images, videos and even the battle re-enactment.
The app won top prize at the Start-up Uni in November, an annual competition that encourages creative ideas among students as well as people launching start-ups.
Tran Huu Duc, director of FPT Ventures, said at the competition that Friendly Guide was “highly feasible”.
Huy says winning first prize was a thrill. “It was recognition for all the effort put in by the team,” he says. It took a lot of persistence and patience.”
Friendly Guide won over promising projects devised by teams at prestigious universities around the country, |including an online teaching programme and “Smart Education” that lets students conduct experiments in a virtual laboratory.