New on the horizon: new tech in museums

This weekend I had fun reading the Museum edition of the Horizon report.   It made for very interesting reading.  It is American centric however the issues and technology discussed do transcend regional boundaries.

The report focuses on key trends and examines emergent technologies for their potential impact on and use in museum learning and interpretation.   They also highlight some significant challenges to supporting digital technology in museums.  The most obvious being financial difficulties, which of course will have a massive bearing following the comprehensive spending review which sees funding for culture slashed.  Somewhat boldly the report suggests that “any museum that is not making reasoned continual investment in its technological future is putting the museum’s ability to engage with ever more networked audiences at significant risk”.  I like this about the report, it is bold, and it doesn’t apologise for it.  It makes clear statements about what needs to be achieved in order for museums to reflect the impact of technology in every other aspect of everyday life.   Another interesting challenge the report presents is that “at a time when their role is more important than ever, too many museum educators lack the training resources or support to address the technological opportunities and challenges they face”.  The report states that there is a lack of adequate preparation in the use of common digital technologies in university for museum studies students.   This is something that Digital Humanities can address.  I have to admit I wasn’t aware of how heavily I was pushing the museum agenda in my day job at UCLDH, but it seems to be working and for me personally and for students interested in working in the Museum sector, I’m glad that my museum based agenda has been very well received and we are doing some very exciting stuff.  Anyway back to the report…

The Horizon report is very well laid out; stating that there are 6 key technologies to watch and the time scales to which museums should be adopting them.

The near term horizon: Mobiles and Social Media

The second adoption horizon: Augmented reality and Location based services

And long term horizon: Gesture based computing and the Semantic web.

It also provides examples the technologies in practice and then some suggested reading.  I have highlighted the examples which I love:

Mobiles in practice: TAP Indianapolis Museum of Art

Mobile Media For Cultural and Historical Heritage Guidelines and pilot projects

Social media in practice: ArtBabble (play art loud – yes I have the sticker!)

Freeze Tag! the Brooklyn Museum

World Beach Project at the V&A is brilliant.

Teens and social media: An overview

Augmented Reality in practice: Culture Clic

Augmented reality technology brings learning to life

Location based services in practice: MoMA – Museum of Modern Art on foursquare

7 Things You Should Know about Location-Aware Applications

And finally gesture based computing and semantic web.

Gesture based computing in practice:

new devices are appearing all the time which take advantage of movements that are easy and intuitive to make.  This is the section of the report which I am least familiar with.  The examples the report suggest are interesting, but I’m really looking forward to seeing what the world of computer vision has to offer museums in the future.

Mapping Application Magnifies California’s Rich History

The Natural History Museum Darwin Centre also has some nice examples of touchtables and gesture based computing in the  along with Nature+

Towards Interactive Museum: Mapping Cultural Contexts to Historical Objects

The Semantic Web in Practice: CHIP Project at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam and CultureSampo are good examples.

Geospatio-temporal Semantic Web for Cultural
Heritage

Does anyone have any more examples of the 6 technologies the Horizon report mentions?

NB. I have copied aspects of this report over on the Digital learning Network blog too.

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7 thoughts on “New on the horizon: new tech in museums

  1. At an hour long, it’s probably a bit too much information, but Dan Saffer literally wrote the book on gesture- and touch-screen interfaces (‘Tap is the new click’, IIRC) and there are a few videos online of him talking about it: http://vimeo.com/2761844.

    The first chapter of the book is online but the video is probably a better introduction.

    1. Thanks Jennifer, I really like Milekic’s work on gaze tracking. I think its really interesting, something I would like to do more on.

  2. Thanks for the mention and the link to the California mapping that we created with Oakland Museum. We’ve also published a couple of case studies on multitouch, multiuser exhibits on the ExhibitFiles. http://www.exhibitfiles.org/

    Also, I posted some thought about multitouch/multiuser design a year or two ago on our blog. http://www.ideum.com/blog/2009/02/multitouch-exhibit-design-1-interaction-and-feedback/

    I really enjoyed your post. Good luck with your project.

    1. Thanks for the links Jim. I’m getting really interested in multitouch design for exhibitions, and how it could work, specifically in natural history museums, so if you have any more examples let me know.

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