Student app to highlight history of UMN campus area

Voy, created by two University students, narrates tours of the Motley development and areas on campus.

Imani Cruzen

University of Minnesota students developed an app to give users a tour of a “gateway” to campus areas recently purchased by the University of Minnesota Foundation.

Voy: Audio Tour for Everyday Places, offers users audio tours of Visus’ Motley development and other areas on campus. Visus is a partnership between University of Minnesota Foundation Real Estate Advisors and UMarq Investments, a Pohlad family-owned entity. The app, created by University students Kiet Ho and Cody Perakslis, has also seen interest from American Public Media. The app aims to launch by the end of the summer.

Ho said a friend of his helped him realize exploring Minneapolis is more enjoyable with a guide.

“I had this friend who took a group of us and took us on a trip downtown … and she had a bunch of stories,” Ho said. “I was like, man, this is a lot better than me going around to buildings by myself and looking things up on Wikipedia or reading plaques.”

Motley partnered with Voy in late 2018, with American Public Media’s Glen Nelson Center joining in March of this year.

The Glen Nelson Center, which opened last November, invests in technology and media companies through its Horizon Fund. Ho and Perakslis have used the center’s space for audio recordings, and the center will also connect the creators with potential potential investors, said Camille Galles, the Glen Nelson Center’s marketing coordinator.

“We’re trying to serve new and diverse audiences while identifying revenue opportunities for public media,” Galles said.

Work on the app began in December 2017, with voice actors recruited to narrate the tours. Ho said Voy interviewed architects, local business owners and other community members to research the tours.

Featured areas include Buffalo Wild Wings, housed in a former fire station, McNamara Alumni Center and the Metro Green Line in Stadium Village. Tours provide history and other information about the buildings.

Motley is now working with Ho and Perakslis to brainstorm ideas and additional areas for the app to tour. Users can also add their own guided tours to the app.

Voy is a way to bring attention to the history of the Motley area, said Motley innovation specialist Ben Ihde.

“It’s a chance to showcase University of Minnesota student innovation. It’s a chance to highlight the history of the Stadium Village area where our project is focused,” Ihde said.

A beta version of the app is currently available to download, but it’s still subject to changes. Ho is currently working to create a 40-minute tour on the 1969 Morrill Hall takeover.

“It follows the chronicle of what led up to [the takeover], relating that to what’s going on with all the buildings and the name changes that’s happening right now, and just kind of putting that history to light,” Ho said.

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated a detail of the Glen Nelson Center’s relationship with Voy. The center will help connect Ho and Perakslis with potential investors.  A previous version also mischaracterized which entity purchased the land. The University of Minnesota Foundation purchased the land. A previous version also mischaracterized the leadership of Motley. It is led by Visus. 

A previous correction also mischaracterized who owns the app. Ho and Perakslis own the app.”