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An Immersive Tour Application Bringing the Past to Life at Umea's Prison Hotel

AREA: Mobile Application Design with Augmented Reality

TIME: A 3-month individual thesis project

COLLABORATION: Hotell Gamla Fängelset ( Umeå’s Prison Hotel )



The overall purpose of this project is to transform textual, historical information into immersive storytelling experience. It specifies the scope to the old prison in Umeå which was closed in 1981 and nowadays serves as a hotel. There are abundant historical materials preserved, but they are unknown to people. By collaborating with Hotell Gamla Fängelset ( Umeå’s Prison Hotel ), the result turns out to be an immersive tour by the use of smartphones. After users experience the tour application, it stimulates people’s imagination of the prisoners’ story and raises their awareness towards the cultural heritage that has always been forgotten. 

It is the oldest remaining stone building in Umea and has rich historical materials preserved, but unknown for people.


The outcome is an application in combination with augmented reality (AR), to build a guided tour that brings history to life at Umeå’s Prison Hotel. By following the narrative of a former guard, hotel guests take a walk through the space and learn about stories of the inmates who once lived there. Featured stories are represented through AR by scanning specific objects embedded in the physical environment. The tour not only demonstrates the plight of the prisoners, but also showcases the reform to humanized treatment over time, at the end linking back to the cozy hotel where the guests are staying.

The interior layout was kept as how it was as the old prison.

An overview of the user journey while participating the immersive tour

Hotel guests get the access to the tour application through the check-in leaflet.

Revealing the featured story of prisoners with augmented reality

Integrating audio guided tour with augmented reality for featured story

The interfaces for second engagement level

Conducting ideations workshops to generate concept for making history alive

The first version of prototype for testing was made by Origami Studio.

Using Xcode to build the feature of augmented reality

The second version of prototype contains mid-fidelity interfaces and refined contents based on the feedback from first round user test.

Testers tried out prototype at the prison hotel.

Users quotes after they experienced the immersive tour application