Taipei Fine Arts Museum Adopts New Technology to Guide Visitors

Taipei Fine Arts Museum Adopts New Technology to Guide Visitors
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What you need to know

A new app has been developed in Taipei to help guide museum and gallery visitors through exhibitions.

Tristone, a design consulting company based in Taipei, spent a year developing and testing a new app while studying how it could use Beacon technology to guide visitors through exhibitions.

Lai (呂昱磊), interactive designer at the company, tells The News Lens International that the Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM) has launched its latest app, which features Beacon, a location-based service initially developed by Apple Inc.

Lai says that after studying audience behavior at the museum, the team found that visitors do not usually walk through the exhibitions in the order planned by the museum, but instead wander around randomly in the exhibition space.

“What we have done is more like create a long list of artworks in the exhibition room and let the beacon devices recommend what piece the user should see next based on his or her location,” says Lai.

Currently, each of the pieces at TFAM that have descriptions provided also have a beacon device placed near them, and introductions to the works appear on smart devices whenever users are within signal range.

“It's like the museum provides a preset route for the visitors, but users can alter the direction of the route based on their behavior,” says Lai.

Lai says the museum doesn’t want to dictate the route visitors take through exhibitions and hopes users can still think about how they want to look at the art on display on their own.

The app doesn’t provide a map or any relationship between the works because “those aren’t necessary for an exhibition tour,” says the designer. But through Beacon technology and a list of artworks, the app can make recommendations based on where the user is located.

“TFAM hopes the audience can build an ability to think on their own, but the modern person needs information provided to think,” says Lai. “This app acts as a bridge between these two minds of thinking.”

The app also provides functions such as audio tours, note taking and social media interaction.

The app has been available for iOS and Android operating systems for about six months and currently has approximately 5,000 users, substantially lower than the estimated 100,000 the team had projected for the local niche app.

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App development

Beacon technology allows mobile apps to receive signals from beacon devices placed in various locations and react accordingly. Signals can be picked up as long as users have the Bluetooth function on their smart devices turned on.

Lai notes that the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MoMA) and other museums worldwide are considering using Beacon technology.

“Very few museums have done something similar, and most of them want to, but they’re still in the exploring phase,” says Lai.

Tristone's development of a Beacon service within the app was experimental, he says.

The designer says that while Beacon appears to be a fully developed technology, there were still many obstacles the team needed to overcome in the process, such as signal interference.

“A certain other museum in Taiwan currently also uses Beacon technology in their app, but only for indoor positioning,” says Lai. “We wanted to use Beacon to detect which art works the user is closer to and make recommendations accordingly.”

Tristone, Lai says, will continue to help TFAM test the app and develop additional functions.

“We want our design to be a long-term service,” says Lai.

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First Editor: Edward White
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole