Visions for Museums explores the ways in which digital technologies may develop and enhance visitor engagement with museums of art, culture, history and science.
Museum research has not traditionally been oriented towards aspects of communication and visitor-orientation, two important starting points for employing and developing digital media in public environments. It is becoming increasingly clear that the need for interdisciplinary research within this field is important.
The Interactive Institute, through Visions for Museums, can establish a new area for research and practice: digital museum communication.
The aim is to become a center for interdisciplinary research and practice, regarding visitor-oriented new media in museum communication.
- Access in Mind
- Storytelling animals II
- China before China
- A touch of Kandinsky
Access in Mind
Access in Mind is an audiovisual installation for the art galleries helping visitors to respond to works of contemporary art, rather than to explain their cultural importance, style or historical context.
The prototype has been developed 2002 at Visions for museums/ Interactive Institute in collaboration with The Swedish National Council for Cultural Affairs. Access in Mind aims to stimulate and encourage young people to explore contemporary art using a multimodal approach – light/dramatized audio.
The design consists of a “ball-chair” equipped with speakers and 3D sound. The sound system also produces vibrations in the chair through a basic unit in the seat. Light is projected through a number of Plexiglas plates combined with diodes which randomly project different colours. The chair is covered with foamed polythene plastic, and is placed on a wooden podium.Sitting in Access in Mind, the visitor hears three different voices with different approaches, reflecting on contemporary art. The voices represent three fictitious characters, which are engaged in a kind of ongoing discussion based on their respective views. The first voice alludes to that of a learned or authoritarian speaker; in this case the artist or art connoisseur – the expert’s voice. The second voice is of a fictitious young man reflecting on love, loneliness, insecurity, suicide and everyday life. The third and last voice belongs to a young woman, a kind of conscience that appears behind the visitor’s neck and encourages the visitor to feel free to grasp without restraint; not to be afraid and to believe in their experience and judgement.
Storytelling animals II
Interaction and collaboration with Senheiser – Development of guides for Universeum, Gothenburg
The audio guides present four different animals: wolf, beaver, adder and salmon – animals that follow The Water’s Way through Sweden and which all have increasingly smaller habitats because of influences of mankind. In the audio guides, the child listens to one of the animals narrate about conditions governing its life in the Swedish landscape. Every audio guide consists of a headset and a bracelet decorated so as to associate to one of the animals.
The four audio guides have separate scripts read out by different actors and they stop at different stations in The Water’s Way area. The wolf’s audio guide is the longest in time and the most multimodal of the four and stops at most stations . It encourages the child to actively interact with the exhibit’s environment and has environmental sounds, sound effects and dramatized music. The beaver’s audio guide has no interaction but has environmental sounds that enhance the feeling of being out in nature. The salmon and adder are both without interaction and sound effects – they consist only of an actor’s storytelling voice. These disparities allowed us to study how increased levels of interaction and auditory dramatization affect children’s experience of the environment and stories of the animals.
The chosen technical solution is called Guideport and has been developed by Sennheiser. The headband of each animal contained a receiver and a set of headphones. 11 small identifiers located throughout the venue at The Water’s Way, triggered the receivers to play the appropriate files when the child wearing the receiver entered a certain predefined area. The next audio track came on as soon as the child leaved the area and entered a different zone. This meant that the child could do things in her own pace.
China before China
This permanent exhibition at the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Stockholm tells the story about the conditions in China before it was China, how people lived and what they made in Eastern Asia for thousands of years before no one even had thought of a Middle Kingdom. The heart of the exhibition is a collection of world-renowned painted pottery from the period before China. A fundamental idea behind the exhibition is to mediate an experience of the life at that time and to make the people who created the pottery come alive to the audience.
This is realized using a computer controlled interaction and media system using three types of media, sound, light and video.
Eighth video projectors are projected a seamless image on a whole wall, animating a yellow river. The light system in the main display case can be animated and make the visitor focus on certain pots and group of pots. The sounds are environmental sounds that creates atmosphere and narrative voices in form of two children.
The exhibition is completely automated and the audience can interact with the exhibition by different means. Motion detectors are used to start and stop the exhibition depending on the activity of any audience. The drawers in the red cabinet are sensitive so when a visitor is pulling a drawer he/she starts a sound that is associated with some of the object in the cabinet, for instance the recorded sound of one of the rattler. The night is a small room within the exhibition room. Enter the room and you will take part of longer stories told by the children. The room is equipped with a 3D-sound system to create a spatial experience based on sound.
The installation is a computer-controlled interaction and a media system consisting of 22 sensors; three touch screens, eleven magnetic reeds and eight motion detectors of the same kind used for burglary alarms. The system (except video-wall) is running on a single computer with the software (developed by the Interactive Institute) based on the MIEL interaction language. In MIEL the interaction author can set up rules describing a particular situation when a media event should be triggered, and it’s performing the event by it self or by delegating it to some external device. MIEL can handle the animation of the light and can communicate with external devices such as media players. The computer get all information from the 22 sensors, based on this information it creates a reaction. All audio comes from a computer-based audio-player, developed by The Interactive Institute. The audio-player handles all 32 loudspeakers in the installation, each loudspeaker can be controlled separate and any audio clip can be played on any loudspeaker. This is a very cheap and yet reliable method for distributing sound in installations. Other comparable technologies for sound distribution will cost several times more that this solution.
The video-wall is based on the commercials system Watchout by Dataton and is running on 9 computers and 8 video projectors.
A touch of Kandinsky
A touch of Kandinsky is an installation in the form of an interactive carpet, aiming to increase the understanding of abstract art, primarily intended for small children visiting art museums or galleries. It is inspired by the artist Wassily Kandinsky’s writings on the concept of synaesthesia and is based on his painting “group”, from 1937.
The carpet is an experiment in communication, exploring the personal dimensions of the artist’s theory through interactive discovery.
The carpet is designed with different motifs, each sensitive for pressure that activates various sounds when the user touches, walks, presses or rolls over the carpet creating an interactive field. Depending on the pressure and the length of time, the sound twirls and changes subtly. The sounds are especially composed and are inspired by Kandinsky´s work. The multimodal interface supports individual modes of interaction and offers the users to interact with the installation in playful ways.
The sensors are of own production and consist of two layers of aluminum-foiled paper with perforated plastic foam in between. When pressure added the foiled surfaces gets connected and with that working as a switch. The sensors are connected to the MIDI sampler transforming it to MIDI-data, sending the sounds to the speakers.