1. In the PLACE approach, field pointers are connected to physical
objects. Using a standard QR code reader on a mobile device,
users are directed to web content that mimicks application
functionality. We use a Wordpress site, but any easy to use
content management system would work. Additional
functionality such as awarding badges for completed activities is
handled using a traditional Wizard of Oz methodology. The
PLACE approach extends previous work on in situ prototyping3
Low-fidelity prototyping for location-based
Anne Bowser, Derek Hansen, Yurong He, Dana Rotman, Jenny Preece
University of Maryland, Human-Computer Interaction Lab www.cs.umd.edu/hcil
1) Bowser, A., Hansen, D., Rotman, D. & Preece, J. (2012). Low-fidelity prototyping for social, location-based game apps.
In Proc. of CSCW '12 Workshop on Mixed-Reality Games. New York, NY: ACM Press.
2) Graham, E., Vassallo, D., Gerrick, S., Han, K., Kang, J. & Hsieh, N. (2012). Challenges of mobile phone-based, GPS-
dependent gaming for citizen science. In Proc. of CSCW '12 Workshop on Mixed-Reality Games. New York, NY: ACM
3) de Sa, M., & Carrico, L. (2009). A mobile tool for in situ prototyping. In Proc. of MobileHCI '09. New York, NY: ACM
4) Li, Y., Hong, J., & Landay, J. (2004). Topiary: A tool for prototyping location-enhanced applications. In Proc. of UIST
'04. New York, NY: ACM Press.
Social experience is key to many location-based games and
activities. PLACE does not encourage testing users in
isolation; rather, groups of 7-12 participants interact with
one another in group sessions. Participants with existing
relationships are encouraged
to play together.
PLACE considers prototyping for
activities, user motivations, and
game dynamics more important
than prototyping for an interface.
Sessions begin by users
completing a simple, prescribed
activity to demonstrate the
application. Next, users are
given “free time” to complete
activities they choose from a list.
This process provides
researchers with data about
which activities are worth
including in future iterations and
makes the experience more fun
for participants. It also helps
users generate new activities
and enhance existing ones.
The PLACE Approach:
Prototyping Location, Activities, & Collective
PLACE is an approach to low-
fidelity prototyping for location-
based social games and apps
that offers a systematic
framework for addressing these
concerns. PLACE combines a
classic approach to prototyping
with a consideration of location,
activities, time, and the
collective experience of play.
We are currently using the
PLACE approach to prototype
Floracaching, a citizens
science game that utilizes
crowd sourcing to gather plant
phenology data and data for
the Encyclopedia of Life1,2
The PLACE approach should be scaled.
Initial sessions are run for 1-2 hours with a short list of
activities and set number of participants in a small
geographic space. Initial findings inform later sessions
that are conducted at a larger scale. For example, we are
currently conducting a week-long session that spans a
college campus and encourages participants to join at
any point in time.
Field Pointer Wizard of
NSF Award SES 0968546
PLACE offers a solution to unique challenges of
prototyping location such as modeling location context
and representing complex interaction sequences4
In order to authentically represent location-based
experience, users must move in the physical world. The
PLACE approach condenses location to different scales.
Initial tests are performed in a smaller space such as three
floors of a building. Later iterations expand the space to a
larger scale, such as a college campus.
Designers who prototype mobile games and applications
are challenged by both the physical constraints of a mobile
device and the necessity of representing complex factors
like location, social experience, the context of use, different
scenarios or activates, and use over time.