THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION
Enhancing the museum visitor experience.
Before smartphones were propelled into the mainstream and there was "an app for that", WiVID (Wireless Visitor Interface Devices) developed the first, fully integrated wireless visitor guide and application network, adaptable to the needs of multiple museums and events.
We joined the startup team at WiVID to give their handheld museum guide for the Smithsonian an intuitive, engaging architecture and user interface.
When we arrived at WiVID, the framework driving much of the functionality and screen real estate allocation had already been built. The only documentation of each screen's content and functionality were in printed form, stored in a binder. Finding this difficult to use as a system-wide guide for communicating about functionality and a cohesive experience with our team, I took some time to map out all of those individual screen documents into a system architecture.
Looking at the prototype from this bird's eye view became invaluable in determining redundancies or issues, helping the dev team to roll out portions of the build, and to begin seeing the hierarchy unfold from a user's point of view. It revealed the connections, page inventories, and functionality paths in this complex, yet groundbreaking, product.
With screen types, functionality, and system architecture in place, we began to sketch an interface for each distinct section of the guide. In "Maps" (top left), we enabled visitors to use interactive floor plans to navigate gallery spaces, find key pieces, as well as follow along guided tours (top right). "Events" (bottom left and right) housed a robust calendar with an added personal schedule and reminder capability to attend activities and lectures, making it easy for families and teachers to plan immersive experiences for their groups.
In "Galleries" (top left), visitors used the context-aware guide to get additional related content—in the form of videos, QTVR, audio, and text—for the gallery and objects they were near. Because the devices were on a network, content could be pushed to them at intervals, keeping the experience engaging and up-to-date. Sketching and messaging capabilities (top and bottom right) allowed visitors to draw, take quizzes, play games, and stay in touch with their group and curators. The experience didn't end at the museum exit—most content and sketches could be saved to a visitor's "Scrapbook" (bottom left) that, through an account login, could be accessed via the web anywhere, anytime.
Distribution and Rental
Proteus (now Motiv), office neighbors of WiVID, worked with us on the design and manufacture of the ruggedizing case and stylus for the guide. The case protected the guide (a Hewlett-Packard iPaq PDA) from heavy public use and was designed to fit into the distribution kiosks' carousel mechanism. Lanyards and earbuds were also available to visitors.
Rent and return kiosks were stationed in the lobby of our test museums. Through a simple transactional process, visitors could rent the guide when they arrived or reserve them online before their visit. We also helped design the kiosk finish options offered to museums, while the form and mechanical engineering was being designed in-house.