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A Nomadic Museum Information System with Adaptive Guidance

TitleA Nomadic Museum Information System with Adaptive Guidance
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication1999
AuthorsOppermann, R., & Specht M.
Secondary TitleCultural Heritage Informatics: Selected papers from ichim99: the International Cultural Heritage Informatics Meeting
PublisherArchives & Museum Informatics
Place PublishedWashington, DC, USA
EditorBearman, D., & Trant J.
Keywordsichim, ICHIM99

The paper describes the electronic guide HIPS that can be used all along the process of a visit in a museum, i.e., for preparation, execution and evaluation. Users can access the system via the Web to prepare a visit by receiving information about the content and organisation of an exhibition and practical issues like location and opening hours. The visitor can also prepare a tour for the actual visit or define hotspots with important exhibits the system should remind the user when being on site. Once the user is in the museum he or she has two specific options to use the system:

  1. The visitor can walk around in the museum and remain standing where he or she finds an item of interest. The current location in the room identified by infrared emitters at all exhibits triggers an indicator for the information presentation.
  2. The visitor can select a tour prepared by a curator, prepared by the user in advance (at home) or generated by the user ad hoc.

In the museum the information access is provided via wireless technologies. This allows the user to access information by moving in the physical space and navigating in the information space concurrently. The Web-based server approach allows for adaptive information selection and presentation based on a user model evaluating the history of the usage of the system. The user can accelerate the adaptation by specifying interests and preferences in the user model. Before the visit the user can define tours and hotspots and enter annotations that will be presented or activated by the system in the appropriate physical environment. After a visit in the museum the user can evaluate the experience at home for further own inquiries or for communication with other interested people. The before-during-after-the-visit-support of visitors via nomadic information system has been designed based on evidence from our questionnaire pre-study, which showed that visitors actually use information available in or about museums also before and after a visit. The system reflecting the needs of mobility has been developed for users visiting an art museum. A mini-laptop with infrared for location identification and wireless LAN for data transmission and touch screen and headphones for user input/out was used as the mobile device. Audio presentation is weak in providing control for the user allowing only for start, pause, move back/forward, and stop a presentation sequence. Selection of parts of information and meta-information about the kind and the length of the information are not supported. For these shortcomings of audio presentation auxiliary visual presentations are designed to complement the understanding of or the navigation through the audio information. Besides a standard audio player lists of exhibition items with several sort options are presented and buttons for attributes of the exhibits allow for directly requesting desired information. For the selection and presentation of information during the visitor's navigation through the physical space additional indicators for the user's needs are inferred from the context of use during the nomadic activity. Preparing an activity needs information different from the execution of the activity and the evaluation of an excursion needs yet another set of information or editing demands of information. During the preparation or evaluation phase of the activity, i.e., at home, the exhibits are visualised by a high resolution reproduction while on site a small thumbnail picture is appropriate to reconfirm the identity of the painting in the exhibition with the item in the information presentation. The adaptation of the selection and presentation of the information to the user supports the combination of new and familiar information for the user. For information behaviour in general and for learning behaviour in particular it is preferable in terms of effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction for the person to learn new elements embedded into a familiar frame. Repetition is a reinforcing factor for learning. Combining new and familiar it ms can augment not only learning results. Also the enjoyment of attraction environments can be increased when the person gets new aspects of an already known topic. The system evaluates the knowledge of the user in terms of seen-entities and presents information about the exhibit in question by its name and a thumbnail representation with additional information that fits the inferred visitor's interests but has not been presented earlier. The navigation of the user in the physical space is performed by movements of the user with his or her feet. The information selection and presentation follows this movement. The user can also move with his or her hands, navigating in the information space. Both kinds of control are combined and to be communicated to the user to avoid confusion or to limit information access. The system tries to combine the movement in the physical and the information space by presenting visual and audio cues when the visitor passes exhibits identified by the user model to be relevant for him or her. A sound icon and a blinking visual icon indicates a new exhibit without interrupting a current presentation. The user is free to select a new presentation whenever he or she wants but is not patronised by automated presentations. The same is true for adaptive suggestions. The system evaluates the seen exhibits and suggests a tour with exhibits of the same group of exhibits the visitor seems to like, i.e., a particular type (like painting), a particular period (like renaissance), a particular genre (like mythology). The system also evaluates the attributes of exhibits the visitor selects (like historical background or the composition and form design of a painting) and adapts the default sequence of attributes to the visitors interests. The system not only supports the distribution of information, but also the creation of new information. A repository of records of journeys, enriched with users' comments, annotations, preferences etc. allows the creation of a log for a visitors' perspectives of, e.g., a collection of paintings in a museum. The system also supports the communication between visitors to exchange hints to interesting exhibits or practical appointments within a distributed group of visitors (e.g., a coffee brake). A prototype of the system has been developed and will be evaluated by experts and normal users within the next two months. The domain of the guide is the castle of Birlinghoven, the main building of the GMD-headquarter that hosts a collection of paintings and sculptures - see: