Friday, May 2, 2008

Mobile audio guides

I like to visit museums, exhibitions and other attractions and I have noticed that there is nothing in common when it comes to audio guide systems. If the guide system exists at all, it is typically as close to chaotic as it could be: staff is too busy to help visitors, devices are not charged completely and visitor runs out of power, one wrong key press and language changes to something far too exotic, volume level is going up and down without any reason and so on. In short: systems are unstable and they require way too much support from staff. 

Why not use mobile phones instead?

Replacing museum audio guides with mobile phones is something that could make sense. There are many possible ways how to technically implement this: people could make a call to museum’s audio guide number and then “press 1 if you are at the first floor” and so on. Another possibility is that people could download audio files to their phones and listen those with built-in audio player. As you might guess, there are lots of obstacles for this scenario (but none of those impossible), not least that people are uncertain about the costs of such a system and hence they might not want to use it. Well, this will change over time.

Where could people then find the downloadable audio guides as there is no default start page for museum visitors? This is a job that someone talented web 2.0 guru could solve by creating a site where museum community could post data and promote their offerings. Consider also that today museums try to get more revenue by selling small souvenirs and memorabilia to visitors; this site could be a new sales channel for museums and hence switch old money consuming audio guide system to a new source of income.

I saved the best part to last: this new portal&audio guide solution would open up the possibility for community created museum related content. No matter which museum you are about to visit, you can be sure that there is a very devoted group of people that knows everything about some special topic presented in museum; whether it is pots, pans, sticks, dresses, paintings or whatever. Their voice can be made heard by solution that would allow “community created museum audio guides accessible from global museum portal”. That would give museums a Long Tail (if you are fed up with long tail -talks, I apologize. I couldn’t resist mentioning it here, because long tail this is).



Михаил said...

hi there,

nice post and good ideas.

please have a look at - isn't it what you dreamed about? :-)

Harri Salminen said...

Thanks for submitting a link to this interesting solution!

It has been over a year since I posted original entry and data roaming costs are still very high. You might want to think something that would allow users to preload content to phone and later listen to it when user is at the location...or was this already in the product?


Михаил said...

Actually, we don't like this approach. There are lots of such guides already.

I know that guys in European Union agreed to reduce costs so it's a matter of time. And flat rates in 3G networks are expected as well.

Anyway, we can make a stress on domestic tourism. For example, German market is very big.

Harri Salminen said...

Yes, there will be changes in EU-roaming costs, finally! You are right, there are many cases where roaming is not a problem and streaming is just fine.

I'll certainly follow your work and try Toozla when going to areas where audioguide is available!


Михаил said...


you can try in right now. There is a feature allowing you to post your own audio notes directly from a mobile.

So you can play with it.

It's a testing phase so we set a proximity range for user generated notes to 1000km.