Bringing life to the Surrey museum

September 21, 2007

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SFU researchers are partnering with the Surrey Museum and Vancouver-based electronics firm Ubiquity Interactive to develop a mobile, electronic museum guide that will bring museums to life—digitally.

Professors Ron Wakkary and Marek Hatala of SFU’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT) will work with professional staff at the Surrey Museum, researchers at Carleton University in Ottawa and with Ubiquity, which has already created a hand-held guide for UBC’s Museum of Anthropology.

Currently, says Wakkary, portable museum guides are small audio devices hooked up to a set of headphones, a system which isolates the user from the surrounding environment. “Museums are social,” says Wakkary. “People go in groups. We hope to bring the museum to life digitally in a social way so that visitors can talk together.”

The research group plans to develop a device that can sense visitors’ location in the museum, their focus of interest and then relay relevant information about that particular exhibit. The guide could be a wearable technology or a shared hand-held device.

Wakkary is excited to work with Ubiquity, which has already created a way of developing content. “Our expertise is designing the way people interact with that content.”

A pilot guide will be ready next summer. The project is financed by a two-year Canadian Heritage New Media Research Development Initiative grant worth $365,000.
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