At the next exhibition, let your gadget guide the way



Last weekend I was at the Louvre and took an audio (rather: interactive) guide with me. I was somewhat surprised to see that the device I was handed was a Nintendo DS. Awhile back in the Tate Modern in London I believe to remember seeing an iPod (semi-hidden in a plastic case) used as a guide.

It’s quite interesting to see how these devices are used and modded to serve this new purpose. In the case of the Louvre’s Nintendo handsets for example, the console would recognize in which room you are and offer more in-depth info for selected artworks in that room, or you could simply punch in the audio guide number of your artwork of choice. The principle is quite simple and it works reasonably well. Many other things could quite easily be handled by smartphone apps, and of course in many cases they already are. Well-produced audio content goes a long way in explaining a museum exhibition.

“Outdoors” exhibition apps (9/11 memorial and the like) are a slightly different take on the same general area, but the potential for interaction in public spaces adds an extra layer of design challenges – which were by the way excellently solved and incorporated in Janet Cardiff’s and George Bures Miller’s interactive iPod installation at dOCUMENTA.

Do you know of interesting examples of well-designed interactive exhibition apps, or interestingly executed, repurposed devices in museum contexts?