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Dialing For Museum Tours

About a year ago I wrote a post entitled ‘Augmenting Realities’ which described how I used my Treo to get additional information related to a Matisse painting from mobile.answers.com on my browser.

At the time I said that I wished that I could dial a telephone number that could instantly provide me with additional information about what I was seeing and I thought about the overall potential for further bridging the gap between the physical and digital worlds – such as ‘augmented realities’ – using mobile devices. 

Well, according to a recent Associated Press article I’m glad that my frequent museum visits are about to get even better as dozens of art institutions have begun or are in the process of offering, mostly for free, ‘cell phone tours’ – eliminating the decades-old system of museums renting out expensive handheld devices.

Like the old system, these cell phone tours offer music, narration and recordings from historical archives designed to bring more context to the exhibitions.  However, instead of renting a handheld/headset you simply use your Treo to dial a number and select the code that corresponds to the artwork that you’re viewing.

Three companies – Guide by Cell, Spatial Adventures and Museum411 – are at the forefront of this technology and are leading the surge of museums’ adoption of cell phone tours.  Evidently it is considerably cheaper for the museums to offer such a virtual phone service compared to the handheld/headset rental while any visitor with a cell phone benefits from quickly and conveniently accessing the audio services.

Additionally, Spatial Adventures plans to offer text, pictures and video which take advantage of new high-speed wireless networks.  Further out it is likely that the entire audio/multimedia program could be downloaded over-the-air and a mobile-optimized webpage could further support your experience of any museum exhibit.  For its part, the SF MOMA has apparently already begun to offer audio files that visitors can download from its website and play on their MP3 players.

If you’d like to sample a free museum tour, Guide By Cell offers one from the "Painting in Tongues" exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles, CA.  Simply call (408) 795-2173 > Press 0 # to hear a greeting from the museum’s curator > Press 1-9 followed by the # sign to hear descriptions.

To hear a description of the particular painting here on the right by the artist Kai Althoff simply press 3 then #.

Museums Begin Offering Cell Phone Tours [Associated Press]

Treonauts always appreciate art

Posted by Andrew on March 21, 2006 at 02:40 PM

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by Museums in Madrid | May 2, 2011 5:41:48 PM

Today this is a novelty in my view but the technology is not the service will evolve with the technology enabling more to be done with it.

by affordable web design | May 6, 2011 1:18:36 AM

I can feel the continuous technology adoptation. Can you imagine now theres Dialing For Museum Tours?Lols but it makes our life easier and it is on our favor.

by AngeWayne | May 19, 2011 10:59:56 PM

It is because the continuous adoption of technology. There is no impossible thing on technology, even the small mobile phone has a great role in ones life.

by Allan | Jul 27, 2011 4:22:16 PM

This is great news. This new "cell phone tours" is so much more convenient and cheaper than renting a handheld/headset. With the continous adoption of technology I wonder what other exciting and interesting things we will be seeing in museums of the future, maybe we could see some interactive exhibits?

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