Spark Blog Notes from the Spark Team

April 20, 2012

Museums Modernize the Self-Guided Tour

Self-guided tours at the Louvre and The Museum of London are getting a digital makeover.

At the Louvre, you can now take a self-guided tour using a Nintendo 3DS handheld gaming device. Featuring two screens, the 3DS allows you to pull up a museum map on one and tour options or a list of exhibits on the other. It also has a position-location feature to aid in navigating the massive museum. (No word on whether you can also use the 3DS to blast Resident Evil monsters at the same time).

The Louvre also offers smartphone apps that allow you to design your own tour.

The Museum of London has begun using Near-Field Communications (NFC) tags from Nokia to embed information into exhibits. Scan the tags with your NFC-enabled smartphone, and you can get more exhibit information, buy Museum prints, or check-in, tweet or "like" what you see.

Most mobile phone manufacturers are members of the NFC Forum, so if you have a newer smartphone, you should be able to take advantage of the tags. Check out the full list of NFC-enabled phones.

If your phone lacks NFC, you might consider a good old-fashioned guided tour or an MP4 walking tour. Whichever tour you choose, you can look forward to using your own device and your own earphones. No more audio cassette players with grimy earphones worn by thousands of others before you. Yuck!

UPDATE:London’s Science Museum has teamed up with James May of the original BBC television show Top Gear and developer DigiCave to create a virtual guide for some of the museum’s key exhibits. To use the app, you simply download the application from Google Play or the App Store, launch it and point your device at the target in front of the museum display as if you were taking a picture of it. The app, driven by the Vuforia augmented reality system, will recognize the target through the device’s camera and a miniature James May will appear on your device screen and begin telling you about the exhibit.
We welcome your thoughts, opinions, and comments (just be sure to adhere to our Posting Guidelines).