Immersive tour at Umeå’s Prison Hotel

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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.

Inspiration and Method

The initial point was to make the history of old buildings alive with the practice of interaction design. It focuses on Umeå’s old prison because of its significance towards the town and its accessibility regarding on-site concept validation. To understand target users’ interest towards the stories from the past, design research was conducted through shadowing first-time visitors, interviewing with hotel guests and reviewing online comments to the hotel. With the idea of creating a guided tour application to show the history, a minimum viable prototype was built and further tested with four potential users to iterate design details and communicate with stakeholders.


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.