New version of Arts Festival app enables users to create own experiences

Stephanie Koons
July 06, 2015

The Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts will once again bring more than 125,000 people to downtown State College and the University Park campus on July 9-12. With the aid of an app developed by researchers at the College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST), attendees of this year’s festival will also have an opportunity to create their own activities and connect with other festival goers through a “meetup” format.

“The meetup gives attendees a chance to create part of the program,” said Jack Carroll, Distinguished Professor of information sciences and technology and director of the Center for Human-Computer Interaction (HCI).

The Center for HCI developed the Arts Festival State College app in 2008, and since then it has grown in popularity as well as added new features. Using the app, festival goers can access the official database of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, which includes descriptions of all 300 artists selling their works at the festival; schedules of various music, dance and theatrical performances; and other festival activities. The app can display the locations of artist booths and performance venues, and app users can determine the artists and performances that are in close proximity to their current location. When a user bookmarks an event, he or she will get a reminder an hour before the event starts.

Keith Han, an IST doctoral candidate and an HCI center member, said that this year’s version of the app allows for a greater degree of interactivity and user-generated content. Users will be able to post their own events such as Frisbee games, cooking classes or yoga sessions.

With the aid of state-of-the-art wireless technology, Han said, the app will provide location-based services that will “open social interaction space.” The HCI group collaborated with Kevin Costello, a recent IST graduate who founded an iBeacon startup. iBeacon uses Bluetooth low energy proximity sensing to transmit a universally unique identifier picked up by a compatible app or operating system. The identifier can be used to determine the device's physical location or trigger a location-based action on the device such as a check-in on social media or a push notification. Bluetooth is a wireless technology standard for exchanging data over short distances from fixed and mobile devices and building personal area networks. By turning on their Bluetooth devices, Arts Festival attendees can “check in” to events and connect with other users in the vicinity.

“This is an area where people are creating events that can cause interaction,” Carroll said.

The researchers have also added a "wave" as a new feature of the Arts Festival app, said Sooyeon Lee, a IST doctoral student and project group member. A wave is similar to a "poke" on Facebook and is intended as a way of getting someone’s attention. The app feature enables users to send waves via text message to their friends or other people they want to interact with. Festival goers have the opportunity to use this function to meet and take “selfies” together.

“This is a simple and easy way to start conversations or interact with others, which could enhance a user's festival experience,” Lee said.

Jessica Kropczynski, an IST lecturer who is also part of the research group, said that the Arts Festival app allows for greater personalization of the festival experience. The app, which had about 1,400 downloads last year, allows users to “like” events, add photos and share their opinions through post-meetup surveys. Those added features, Kropczynski said, allow users to create new experiences and promote a sense of camaraderie at the Arts Festival.

“This is sort of a community within that community,” she said.

Developed for both iPhone and Android, the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts app can be accessed for free through the Google Play Store and through the iOS App store. In addition, festival goers can get assistance in downloading the app at the Center for HCI’s booth, which will be located next to the Penn State Berkey Creamery booth next to Willard Building on campus.

The iOS app can be downloaded at People can access the Google/Android app at

The research group that developed this year’s Arts Festival app also includes Raquel Prates, Patrick Shih, Kevin Costello, Unsuk Heo, Jiawei Chen, EunSun Jeong, Diego Reidel da Silva, Mario Scaglione, Poulami Chakraborty and Mecca Shabazz.

  • IST researchers develop Arts Fest app

    Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) has again partnered with Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts to develop a smartphone app. The app will be available to festival goers using both iOS and Android devices and will provide schedules, maps, and social media connections.

    IMAGE: Emilee Spokus

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Last Updated July 23, 2015