Tech Ideas, Insights, and Projects for Museums

Earlier this year, we were briefly mentioned in a document provided by the New Media Consortium┬ácalled “The NMC Horizon Project Short List (2013 Museum Edition).” I’m glad this resource was brought to my attention, because it provides for museums a wealth of tech insights that would otherwise require a lot of legwork.

Because museums and non-profits are often working with limited resources, just the research alone into tech improvements that might enhance the visitor experience is often difficult. This document details a number of technologies of importance for museums, three of which I’m highlighting here.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

Whenever museums consider a tour app rollout, the issue of providing hardware for visitor use will be raised as a major expense. What few museums realize is that they can leverage the proliferation of smart devices already in visitors’ hands.

The obvious technology to leverage in this fashion is the QR code, of course. However, content can be much more rich if a tour app is adopted that can install to iOS and Android devices. Blackberry and Windows devices are nice to have, but iOS and Android are a must.

For those visitors that don’t bring their own device, that’s fine. Two or three low cost tablets can be on hand to provide for their use.

Crowdsourcing for Museums

For a variety of reasons, institutions and curators aren’t often in a hurry to relinquish messaging and interpretation. However, the latest generation of museum visitors expect interaction and diverse viewpoints.

Museums can use technology to help bring context for visitors.

Visitors are now expecting more from museums, and technology can help bridge the gap.

Leveraging the “collective knowledge” of the community or a number of voices that are knowledgeable on the topic helps satisfy this expectation as well as alleviate the workload for understaffed museums. Technology can assist in both collecting and distributing the perspectives of those voices.

Engaging more voices results in a richer dialogue and logically, more traffic.

Augmented Reality

The technology for museums isn’t quite there yet, but once the ball starts rolling, it will happen fast.

The NMC Horizon Project Short List explains augmented reality as a “layering of information over 3D space” that provides new experiences and perspectives. For those not yet familiar with the technology, it sounds like something out of Blade Runner. But, proofs of concept and work in the field tell us that the technology is not that far away.

One of the factors that has delayed adoption of augmented reality is hardware related: Augmented reality is demanding on batteries and requires significant processor capability. And, for museums, associated costs will be significant.

Still, the move toward an augmented reality experience tells us how the curatorial space is changing and what the evolving visitor expectations are.

Do you represent a museum looking to enhance the visitor experience with technology? Please, tell us about it here.

Matthew White

Matthew White blogs on all things related to virtual tours, mobile touring, and tour apps as well as how they relate to web design, SEO, and content marketing. There is also of course helpful information on using Whitepoint - the framework for smarter virtual touring and mobile-friendly tours.

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