Features of digital interaction through museum apps

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This photo, “iVincent” by JD Hancock, has some rights reserved and is made available under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license

Posted by: Adrià Piqué Serra | @apiquese

At present, museums are challenged to manage and show its cultural heritage in an interactive and participatory way in order to encourage the experience of art and cultural tourism through personalised app. This state-of-the-art identifies the main functionalities and technologies run by museum apps which require special attention and analysis in the current context of museums. Thus, one or another should be taken as requirement in the development of any service or application depending on each case.

Firstly, we have focused on the next conceptual cores to locate and identify the existing features on museum apps:

  • Display functionalities
  • Sharing content
  • Personalise the own visit
  • Audio-guides
  • Geolocation and optical recognition (or Augmented Reality)

Most of the apps from the museum sector are route-centred in collection and some of these allow users to create personalised routes according their preferences and share their routes with other users, and then it is possible to select tours from both museum-created and visitor-created tours. Tour system gives the possibility of providing a direct experience, tours make easier and more enriching the users’ interaction with collections. Nonetheless, tour recommender systems have not a comprehensive implementation in apps focused on visitors. Only Smithsonian Visitors Guide App offers recommended tours based on interests, group size and suitable time, but it does not exactly consist of an automatic tour recommender system.

Statistics about user’s behaviour on app and its interpretation could provide precise information related to user’s dynamics and preferences, or even feelings, which consists of Sentiment Analysis. To be honest, in the future, it would be necessary that professionals develop complex metrics to drive critical improvements for interaction between collection and users. Museum Experience is a generic application that provides statistics about visitor’s behaviour.

Besides visitor-created tours, there is another app with personalisation possibilities. ArtClix, the High Museum of Arts’ (Atlanta) app, allows users to capture the piece and share photos easily as a postcard from the app to Facebook, Twitter, or email. Visitors are able to take a personalised souvenir from their visit.

Employing image recognition software, some apps can recognize artworks in the collection seamlessly, offering access to additional interpretative content. As a photograph is taken by the user, the application automatically detects the artwork and provides information about the piece without introducing code.

Apple’s iBeacon technology means a meaningful improvement regarding geolocation. In this case, the museum installs sensors next to the artworks to send notifications when the visitor is near. This indoor positioning system is more precise than the traditional GPS and then adds interaction to the visit. This system takes more advantage than scanning tools –by optical recognition– to display content because iBeacon sensors trigger the app to show automatically content. Ruben House iBeacon App is an interesting example of implementation with this technology which we can see in this movie case.

 

As well as museum apps, there are apps focused on urban tourism or heritage tourism, such as Guideo App, which offers geo-located routes that visualise 3D multimedia historic scenes by augmented reality in points of interest. Another application in this type of tourism, iDiscover City Walk app, offers series of self-guided tours that highlight urban heritage in Asia’s historic city centres. The interactive contents in urban tourism -or “just-in-time” tourism- depend on geolocation. Geoexperiencias has an interesting functionality which warns about the proximity of a point of interest through notification which a user receives by geolocation.

The curated data can make digital collections user-friendly. ArtLens, the Cleveland Museum of Art’s app, provides changing list of visitor-chosen favourites, as well as curators’ top picks of must-see artworks. It also includes a search engine to find quickly artworks by artist name or title that is currently on view. MoMA App provides an index of items and artists of the collection, as well as a glossary of terms related to art. NC NatSci, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences’ Guide App, includes metatags in items corresponding to exhibitions. Users can use filter features to find exhibitions that include the feature. But it’s too possible to integrate curated data into the visual interface. For example, there are tours with indexes that allow to go to any specific point of the visit or accessible interactive maps with full exhibit content.

Usually, games target specific audiences and types of engagement to encourage learning. In particular, games target children and youth. But, on some apps learning games can be played by people of any age. Game formats include interactive quizzes and treasures hunts on Second Canvas and Ruben House iBeacon App. In this way, users are challenged to do the best effort to know the museum heritage. Gamification is a trend that will become more and more influential for the coming years in cultural tourism. However, the application of gamification in museums is still in its embryonic state which is mostly linked to the academic research in game patterns.

In the next diagram, the most relevant features are grouped in eight conceptual families that are essential components in the interaction between collection and visitor: personalisation, optical recognition, Augmented Reality, geolocation, content sharing, monitoring and Game & Gamification.

Diagram of features of museum apps

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