VRA 2012, Engaging New Technologies, Screens


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Presented by Meghan Musolff at the Annual Conference of the Visual Resources Association, April 18th - April 21st, 2012, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Session: Engaging New Technologies
While the seemingly exponential array of new technologies offers the potential to enhance the services we provide, simply keeping up with what is available (or on the horizon) is a daunting process. This fast-paced session will demonstrate a rich variety of new technologies, emphasizing concrete examples that show engagement in professional contexts. Utilizing the expertise of energetic, tech-savvy presenters, this session will introduce new tools as well as creative uses of more established technologies, demystifying them to empower session attendees to further investigate on their own. Emphasis will be given to technologies that can be readily utilized in teaching, learning, and research environments.

Betha Whitlow, Washington University in St. Louis
Meghan Musolff, University of Michigan

MODERATOR: Betha Whitlow, Washington University in St. Louis


1: Carolyn Caizzi, Yale University
2: Meghan Musolff, University of Michigan
3: John Trendler, Scripps College
4: Betha Whitlow, Washington University in Saint Louis

For more links: http://www.diigo.com/user/Engagingtech

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  • As the organizers of this Engaging New Technologies session were brainstorming for potential topics for today’s talk, there were a number of technologies that we wanted to cover, but didn’t fit into our other established presentation areas.
  • For example, we wanted to discuss devices such as smart phones and tablets; technologies such as mobile applications, QR Codes, augmented reality; and concepts such as digital signage, mobile computing, and gesture based technology. So, what do all these topics have in common?
  • The simplest answer is screens.The devices have actual screens, the technologies are employed through screens, and screens are integral components to the concepts. Therefore, this presentation will focus on how users are engaging with screens and how, as visual resource professionals, we can use the proliferation of screens to our advantage.
  • It used to be that the only screen in your life was the television at home.
  • Now, screens can be miniature (this is an example of a wearable nametag screen that measures 2.4 inches) or…
  • …they can be huge (this is the video screen in Cowboy Stadium in Texas that is 160x72 feet).
  • And screens are everywhere —in your pocket, in your office, on the walls, in your grocery store.
  • Because of today’s omnipresent nature of screens,it’s incredibly likely that your users—be they faculty, students, museum visitors, or…
  • …even monkeys —engage with screens on a daily basis and have the expectations that both you AND your collections will too.
  • Because the topic of “screens” is rather diverse, I’ve identified three important themes to organize my presentation: Instant access, engagement, and collection extension.
  • Before we get started a quick side note: As with the other presentations this morning, I will be showing you a couple of technologies that can be implemented when you return to work on Monday.
  • However, I think we’re at a stage where a lot of cutting-edge technologies are moving away from easy and quick adoption [SLIDE] (think of technologies like facebook, blogs, or twitter)…
  • and moving into a more collaborative arena (think of technologies like mobile applications and augmented reality).
  • In order to implement some of these ideas, partnerships will need to be made across your institution. I encourage you to seek out the individuals that are doing cool things and contribute your knowledge and content. Along these lines, at the end of each section, I will provide suggestions for where to find people to collaborate on the discussed technologies.
  • At the most basic level, mobile computing is about using transportable devices to access information. And thanks to the proliferation of mobile devices, users now expect to access information both instantly and spontaneously. In a visual resource environment, this translates to users wanting instantaneous access to information about you AND your collections on mobile devices.
  • How do we prepare for this shift in access? One of the simplest ways is to make sure your sites are accessible on mobile devices. There are services that exist to gauge the “mobile friendliness” of a site. An example of this is MobiReady. Simply go to the Mobiready site, enter the URL you want to check, and the site will produce an overall score for the mobile readiness of your site.
  • This score takes into account the size of the page, the estimated cost to load the page, the speed, and a number of other factors. In my opinion, having this information about your site is helpful as a starting point when you begin to think about mobile access to your sites, This is also nice information to have when you approach someone asking for help with mobile computing...
  • A possible next step is to create a mobile version of your website. Many libraries have mobile versions of their online catalogs available for users (on the left, is a screenshot of the mobile version of the University of Chicago Library’s online catalog) and databases like ARTstor have also created a mobile site.
  • Let’s use Duke University Library as another example. Instead of using this typical homepage for the library…
  • …mobile users are directed to this site—simple, basic, and something that will load quickly on a mobile device. (In case you’re wondering, the Duke Library mobile site got the highest score on the MobiReady website).
  • A second possible step is to create mobile application software, or app, for users to access your collection. Numerous museums, like the Louvre, have developed mobile apps for users to access collection information and images.
  • However, looking beyond highlighting just artwork, apps have also been created to access other types of collections held by institutions,such as the iPad app by MOMA that allows users to view museum publications (with a built in function where users can zoom into the high-resolution images included in the catalog)…
  • …and an app by the Metropolitan Museum of Art to accompany their exhibition on Korean Ceramics (where, unlike typical exhibition catalogs, users can access interviews with curators involved in the exhibition alongside textual information).
  • Creating a mobile site or app, is hard to do alone and I suggest talking a collaborative approach. In general, become knowledgeable about mobile initiatives on campus or at your institution—because not only can these partnerships be beneficial for you, but it could be that these initiatives could use your images. Try contacting mobile divisions in IT or the library. Communications/marketing staff also can help work on making your own site mobile friendly. And finally, as visual resource professionals, we should also work with commercial databases and asset management vendors to push them to develop mobile access to their products on behalf of our users.
  • Moving onto engagement. In some ways, simply providing mobile access to your site and collection isn’t going to satisfy the appetites of today’s tech-savvy mobile consumers. Users not only want instant access to information, but they want a high level of engagement with our collections through the various screens around them. They want to use mobile devices to interact with physical objects to create a memorable experience. In this example, visitors to a Surrealism event at the Exploratorium in San Francisco are using mobile devices, together with augmented reality, to create personalized versions of Magritte’s famous painting.
  • We’ve discussed augmented reality at previous ENT sessions as a very futuristic endeavor, but its adoption has come faster than expected to cultural institutions—due in large part to the proliferation of screens.
  • The basic idea of augmented reality is that you take an object and/or place and add information.
  • It’s all about the layering of information over a 3D space and using objects in the physical world to interact with the virtual world.
  • Augmented reality examples can be very easy or very complicated. A great simple example of this is QR codes. I would hope that these look familiar to most folks by this point, but a QR code is short for a Quick Response Code. Similar to a barcode, a QR code carries information that can be read with the right device—namely smartphones equipped with QR readers.
  • But, anyone can create a QR code and use it to highlight collections and services. First, you’ll need a QR generator—there are a lot of these generator websites, but I like to use MyQR. Simply supply a URL and a QR code will be made available for download.
  • (Side note: One of the reasons I like this site because you can track the performance/views of the code.)
  • You now have a code that when scanned by a smartphone equipped with a QR reader, the user will be taken to the chosen website and able to instantly access more information. The possibilities are endless.
  • At UM, we use QR codes on our event posters to refer people back to our department website for more information.
  • Museums are adding them to sign plaques.
  • Libraries are including them in the stacks to reference electronic resources.
  • Even cupcakes have them.
  • Taking this idea to another level, Google has an app called Google Goggles that uses image recognition to search with a camera picture for more information.
  • You can gain access to information about a number of different object types using Google Goggles, but of interest to us is how this app interacts with artwork. Users take a picture of an artwork with their smartphone, and not only will the painting be identified, but the user will be taken to a mobile site with more information about the object.
  • In real-life scenario, Google partnered with the Getty to enable this function within the museum. There’s a lovely video of the app at work and I have posted it to the ENT Diigo page.
  • From small screens to large screens, users also are looking to engage with collections in a more hands on fashion. Enter gesture based technologies which allow users to interact with a surface using their movements. These are pictures of the DialogTable at the University of Michigan Museum of Art. Using technology developed by Microsoft, visitors can drag and drop images of museum pieces around the table, interacting with other visitors around the table, watching prerecorded curatorial videos, and grouping and tagging the images into groups. A nice touch is that these images groups are available for reference later—outside the museum.
  • While these examples focus on users engaging with collections through screens, there is also the rise in the use of screens as mediums for creative output. For example, the artist David Hockney has been using the app Brushes to create works of art on his iPad and these works of art have been displayed in numerous galleries and museums.
  • As you may have guessed, augmented reality projects and gesture based kiosks are rather hard to do alone. Again, folks in IT and the library will be helpful, but a lot of cutting-edge work in these fields is being done in museums of all kinds.
  • Screens are everywhere and as visual resource professionals, we can use this to our advantage by extending the life of our collection into new environments—both large and small. Additionally, it’s about promoting and advertising our collection and services to a new audience through the plethora of screens.
  • One of my favorite examples of this is an app developed by the Vincent Van Gogh museums called “Yours, Vincent.” With this app, users can listen to letters written by Van Gogh read aloud and use the letters as access points to investigate the museum’s collection.
  • Expanding the use of collection material to new places, museums are doing great things with augmented reality to push the wealth of information they possess out to users. An example is the Museum of London’s Streemuseum app. With this app, users can interact with photographs from the museum’s collection by using the built in GPS on their smartphone. Historical photographs are layered over current views of the streets in London—broadening the museum’s photograph collection in the physical streets of the city.
  • Want to be able to do something like this? The site HistoryPin is an option—especially if you have an extensive collection of historic photographs. Simply load your photographs to the site and pin them (hence the name) to geographical locations.
  • Users with the HistoryPin app will then be able to view your images on a map…
  • —both on a desktop computer and out on the street using augmented reality.
  • Not only can screens be used to access your collection, but they can also be used to promote and advertise your collection through digital signage.
  • The concept of digital signage has been around for awhile (technically these airport signs could be considered digital signage)…
  • ….but with the introduction of screens into more and more public spaces, the programming of content for screens has become full time jobs. Since these signs are basically advertisements, visual resource professionals can utilize these screens and use them as advertisements for collections and services.
  • Digital signage programs can be very advanced and there are commercial content management systems out there to help manage complex digital signage programs across multiple locations. These systems, offered by companies such as Four Winds Interactive (and here’s a screenshot from the FourWinds CS) or CISCO, allow for a streamlined approach to digital signage.
  • Commercial options for digital signage are not cheap, but there are other DIY options for signage. In this example, the Grant Museum of Zoology in London is using an iPad to display information to users.
  • But it also can be as easy as setting up an extra LCD monitor, loading a PPT with your collection images, and setting up the screen for display.
  • (On note of caution, digital signage is a very public proposition, so make sure you are monitoring the activity of your screens.)
  • Similar to the examples we have previously discussed, these technologies take a wee bit of magic to make happen—and by magic I mean programming skills. But I guarantee that someone at your institution is working on extending collections outside the walls of your museums, library, or department. Try looking for partners in IT, libraries, museums, archives, GPS centers—GPS centers will be especially helpful if you are looking to do projects related to geo-locating photographs. Even department staff. One of my colleagues at UM who works with digital signage noted that, more often than not, some department administrative person becomes in charge of digital signs within an academic building. She suggested that these folks are always looking for screen content, so get your collections on those screens! And finally, another place to look for collaborative ventures for screen projects are digital humanities labs. In fact, these labs—where technology and the humanities meet to create innovative projects—are great place to look for creative people to work with on all type of projects involving screens of all sizes and shapes.
  • VRA 2012, Engaging New Technologies, Screens

    1. 1. Screens | Meghan Musolff | ENT: VRA 2012
    2. 2. Smart phonesTabletsMobile applicationsQR codesAugmented realityDigital signageMobile computingGesture-based technology
    3. 3. Smart phonesTabletsMobile applicationsQR codes ScreensAugmented realityDigital signageMobile computingGesture-based technology
    4. 4. Important themes: Instant access EngagementCollection extension
    5. 5. Side note:
    6. 6. Facebook Blogs Twitter
    7. 7. Facebook Mobile applications Blogs Augmented reality Twitter
    8. 8. Collaborative Partnerships
    9. 9. Important themes: Instant access EngagementCollection extension
    10. 10. IT LibraryPartners Communications/Marketing Students Developers
    11. 11. Important themes: Instant access EngagementCollection extension
    12. 12. Augmented Reality
    13. 13. Object/Place + Information
    14. 14. Physical Virtual
    15. 15. Quick Response Code
    16. 16. David Hockney
    17. 17. ITPartners Library Museums
    18. 18. Important themes: Instant access EngagementCollection extension
    19. 19. Digital signage
    20. 20. Screen + PPT = digital signage
    21. 21. IT Library ArchivesPartners Museums GPS centers Department staff Digital humanities
    22. 22. Thank you.
    23. 23. Image creditsSlide1: http://www.flickr.com/photos/motoyen/7450579/Slide 5: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sungroup/4052931785/in/photostreamSlide 6: http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidcjones/4430346247/Slide 7: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nedrai/5016337250/; http://www.flickr.com/photos/daviderickson/6669679869/; http://www.flickr.com/photos/mlibrary/6875206512;http://www.matrixmediadigital.com/groceryads.htmlSlide 8: http://www.flickr.com/photos/aartj/2434968218/Slide 16: http://www.flickr.com/photos/islespunkfan/3816710001/Slide 27: http://www.flickr.com/photos/exploratorium/5432316702/Slide 31: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ell-r-brown/6290075556/Slide 34: http://www.flickr.com/photos/scott_blake/5036227559/sizes/l/in/photostream/Slide 36: http://www.flickr.com/photos/betsyweber/5761239627/Slide 37: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25095603@N07/5021688103/in/photostreamSlide 38: http://www.flickr.com/photos/clevercupcakes/3985603967/Slide 46: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chickencat/1702898707/Slide 53: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kathika/2499693837/Slide 54: http://www.flickr.com/photos/umich-msis/6443296953/Slide 56: http://www.flickr.com/photos/visionet-art/6221088004/Slide 58: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hendry/1028035206/in/photostream/