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The Electronic Guidebook: Using Portable Devices and a Wireless Web-based Network to Extend the Museum Experience

Semper, Rob; Spasojevic, Mirjana


Keyword(s): handheld computers; wireless networks; electronic guides; mobile computing devices

Abstract: Recent advances in wireless network technologies create the potential to significantly enhance the experience of a visit to a museum. On the exhibit floor, visitors carrying wirelessly connected portable devices can be given opportunities for exploration, sharing, explanations, context, background, analytical tools, and suggestions for related experiences. When these devices are part of a Web-based network, they can help extend the museum visit: in advance, through activities that orient visitors, and afterward, through opportunities to reflect and explore related ideas. The Electronic Guidebook project is a study of visitors equipped with such technologies, conducted by the Exploratorium in partnership with researchers at Hewlett-Packard Labs and the Concord Consortium. The project is investigating how a Web-based computing infrastructure can provide museum visitors with an augmented museum experience, so that they can better plan their visit, get the most out of it while they are in the museum, and be able to refer back to their visit once they have returned to their home or classroom. The goal is to understand what technological infrastructure supports this extended museum experience, and to obtain preliminary data on how different aspects of the technologies, and the content delivered through them, affects engagement with the exhibits and pre- or post-visit learning activities. The project created a test-bed and tested a network using a variety of handheld computers and radio-frequency identification tags to link visitors with exhibit-related content delivered by a Web-based server. Visitors in the study were able to access Web- based content, including text, images, video, and audio, during a visit. In addition, they were able to construct a record of their visit by book-marking exhibit content, creating images, notations, and other artifacts and to access it on a personal Web page in the museum or following their visit. Notes: To be published in and presented at Museums and the Web 2002, 17-20 April 2002, Boston, MA

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