Students Helped Zoo to Develop Application for Visitor

Two wolverines having a chat, a gripping story or a witty comment – these are also ways of providing the zoo visitors with information about the animals. Similar texts have been created by students of computer linguistics at the Faculty of Arts of MU. Together with the texts, an application for smart phones and tablets has been developed, which visitors of the Brno zoo will be able to use.

“The idea came up spontaneously when students came for an educational visit. We mentioned that we could use an application which would give the visitors some extra information about our animals,” says the Zoo’s spokeswoman Monika Brindzáková about the spring 2015 when the whole project started.

Students of computer linguistics led by Dr. Dana Hlaváčková accepted the challenge and started creating the texts about animals. They’ve come up with no less than four versions: Czech, English, for children and for adults. “Their goal is to come up with interesting and creative stories. They need to learn all the information there is and that’s why we often consult the zoo keepers and curators,” explains Dr. Hlaváčková.

The application doesn’t just provide the visitors with plain facts, it also gives them very specific info on the inhabitant of a specific enclosure – e.g. name, favourite food or hiding places.

All the students work on the project in their free time, that’s one of the reasons the development took more than a year. The application had to be programmed, given a graphical interface and filled with content. Legal issues also needed to be taken care of. “Students sign a licensing agreement giving us the rights to use their work. TTO MU helped us a lot with this,” adds Dr. Hlaváčková. The application couldn’t have been made without the support of Masaryk University which contributed through TTO. “This help was rather crucial,” adds Dr. Hlaváčková. Before the official launch, her team has to test the application, print out information flyers and purchase a testing phone, which will showcase the app.

The visitors will get the app for free. They’ll be able to find the animal that interests them in the list, or by scanning a QR code next to the enclosure. “During the first phase we’ve completed all the animals around the main path, which is around 60 species. With this we’ll offer the app to the visitors. We’re planning on gradually adding more species and our goal is to cover the whole zoo,” says Ms. Brindzáková.

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