Interactive Museum Guide

About the project

Ubiquity Interactive, founded by Leora Kornfeld and me,  developed a handheld multimedia museum guide that was installed at UBC’s Museum of Anthropology

Client location:

University of British Columbia, on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the xwməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam) People.

The Vueguide ay MOA was Canada’s first permanent multimedia handheld museum guide and among the first of its kind in the world. Ubiquity designed the hardware device and software, and produced all the content for the Vueguide. Ubiquity was rewarded by a Gold Muse award by the American Association of Museums. (see press release below.)
From The Globe And Mail article:

B.C. museum adds a tech twist

Unlike traditional audio museum guides, which require the user to tap in a code to identify the exhibit in question or to proceed through a gallery in a sequential order, the VUEguide responds to infrared signals emitted by 39 location beacons placed throughout the main galleries. So, for example, it can sense that you are passing a display of bentwood boxes, and will offer the option to learn more about the exhibit now or later. Choose “now,” and you can immediately select from menu items, including a narrated video of the making of a bentwood box or a historical overview of their social significance.

Interpretive Approach

When Leora and I started the Ubiquity project, we aimed to bring the interactive experience out of the corner kiosk and connect it to the experience of being with the object. Until then, our work as digital exhibit designers had been to recreate facsimiles of the artifact on screen. However, this felt more and more inauthentic as the model fidelity increased. The Vueguide, before there was an iPhone, ensured that “the object remained hero” while providing persistent interactive interpretive context.

David Jones: research and writing

This video provides a way of looking at the design on the platter in the case to distinguish the features that identify the Raven and the Killer Whale, and then merges the two again.

Sample Content from the Vueguide at MOA

Making of a bentwood box video

One of the oldest boxes in the collection

Uncovering the Patina on a box

Dr. Anthony Shelton speaks about the Vueguide at MOA

Walking around Reid’s sacred sculpture, The Raven and the First Men, an image on the screen rotates to match the viewer’s perspective, and a tap on the image of one or another of the piece’s many figures activates precise details of its symbolism and place in the whole. Reams of text and images untagged to specific objects provide comprehensive information on aboriginal cultures, traditions, history, social structure, and artistry. The material is uniformly rich and crafted with great care and intelligence, deep respect, and attention to legibility and detail. The VUEguide is a magnificent technological achievement, especially in the context of a museum whose mission is equal parts cultural, educational, and scientific.


VUEguide by Ubiquity goes gold!

Ubiquity Interactive is pleased to announce that they have been awarded with a 2006 MUSE Award from the American Association of Museums.  The company’s founders Leora Kornfeld and Lars Meyer have just returned from the 17thannual MUSE Awards in Boston, where they were presented with the Gold Award in the category of “Educational/Interpretive – History and Culture” for their multimedia handheld installation, the VUEguide. At Vancouver’s Museum of Anthropology.

“The overall quality is outstanding and the VUEguide demonstrates how technology, arts, and humanities come together to deliver an informative, entertaining, and educational experience. Its professionally developed and delivered content makes this multimedia production one of the very best”, said the MUSE Awards judging committee.

The MUSE Awards competition received 108 applications from a wide variety of museums in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia.  This year’s entries included videos, films, DVDs, CD-ROMs, interactive handheld tours, podcasts, blogs, Web sites, audio tours, and gallery installations. Thirty judges – museum and media professionals from across the county – were involved in the process of selecting the winners.  Winning entries were expected to demonstrate outstanding achievement in nine areas including content, interface, design, innovation and appeal.The Vueguide at UBC’s Museum of Anthropology wins Muse Award

Tech Approach

We built the hardware platform on Microsoft Windows PocketPC-powered PDAs. We wrote custom software as a wrapper for an Adobe Flash interface. The application handled media disk access and IR communication, receiving signals from the IR beacons embedded in the exhibits and sending exibit and media IDs to paired devices. we manufactured a custom-designed ruggedized case to house the PDA hardware.

Nicholas Simon: software development
Kevin Knoll: IR hardware design and manufacture

Ubiquity programmable IR beacon v1

Big ideas

Reality is only a consensual hunch.
Lily Tomlin
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