Various versions of museum guides have been developed by the HIIS Lab of ISTI-CNR in Pisa.
One of the first versions was a museum guide for handheld device, which was able to provide multimedia information regarding artworks and related subjects. This guide was able to detect the current position of the user and it also supported some interactive games aimed at improving the visitor’s experience.
In order to detect the current position of the user, the guide exploited the use of infrared sensors and RFID tags. The guide was designed in a modular way and it was able to access XML-based data, therefore it could be reused with limited effort for other museums. One of the main advantages of this system was the possibility for the users to freely move around and at the same time receive in an non-intrusive way additional information about the artworks they were currently looking at in the museum.
A more recent version of this work is a multi-device, location-aware museum guide, able to exploit opportunistically large screens when the users are nearby. Several types of games (both individual and collaborative) have been associated with the descriptions of the artworks, in order to enrich the users’ experience during their visits. The mobile guide is equipped with a RFID reader able to identify the artworks which are near the user through the use of RFID tags which are associated to the various artworks. One of the main advantages of this guide is the capability of exploiting multi-device environments in which the users are free to move around with their guides and opportunistically exploit large screens for collaborative activities, when they are nearby. Indeed, the availability of large screens and the use of collaborative games within the museum stimulate the social interaction between users and enables them to get more easily an improved knowledge of the contents associated with the museum, since through the games the users learn while entertaining and they are also pushed to interact with other visitors. The guide is also able to provide personalised information to the users and then improve their experience during the visit, by exploiting context-dependent information (e.g. the current position of the user, the history of his/her interactions with the application, the currently available devices, etc.). Within this work, we have also developed an authoring environment, which allows museum curators to easily customize
the contents for their museum guides. We have implemented a version of the multi-device guide for two museums: the Marble Museum of Carrara and the Natural History Museum of Calci (near Pisa).