L. de Araújo

Hochschule Bremerhaven (GERMANY)
Audio guides are a convenient way to convey additional information about artworks in museums. At the same time, games are powerful strategies to motivate individuals to actively accomplish certain tasks. In this paper we present the master thesis “Game Based Audio Guide for Museums“ which looked into merging both audio guides and games in an attempt to improve interpretation in the museum by driving the visitor to explore its space and its collection in a motivating and playful manner, and, after that, apply the information acquired.

The guide makes use of object recognition technology as a mean to induce the user to pay attention to the artifacts and take advantage of human gestures, which have proven educational advantages in the learning process. The game concept is based on “spot the difference” style, in which the visitor has to look for missing objects by comparing a picture of a museum room with absent items and the actual site.

The concept, audio, and interface design of the game formed an attempt to promote a more active and aware visit at the museum. This approach not only drives the visitor to observe the environment that surrounds him or her, but also addresses the highlights of the exhibition by letting the visitor take pictures of the artifacts they should find in order to discover more about them. Therefore, the player/visitor is actively engaged in exploring the museum environment.

The game-based audio guide developed is supported by state of art technologies such as the iPhone and Computer Vision Libraries that open new possibilities concerning HCI (Human Computer Interaction) which are not only able to provide visitors with more intuitive ways to operate the machine, but also liberate the graphic interface and the user to accomplish tasks such as recognizing artifacts in the museum. On top of that, a balanced and organized distribution of visual and auditory outputs reduce cognitive load, which leads to faster and easier understanding of the interface, and game mechanics as well as its content.

The results of usability testes carried at the museum ship Dar Pomorza in Gdynia, Poland, indicate that the game presents advantages over regular audio guides in providing a more organized, active and motivating museum experience to the visitor. Stating correctly the number of artifacts mentioned in narrations and remembering a greater number of artifacts by their names were signs from tested users that the experience was in indeed more effective, because the information about the artifacts was better divided within the game. Also, photographing objects was an active action required in the game that played an important role in organizing the experience by promoting a more effective location awareness regarding the museum space and its artifacts. The game obtained better ratings than the regular audio guide regarding the overall experience.

Therefore, the main goal planned for the game was achieved, since it indeed supported interpretation of artifacts in the museum. From the beginning, audio guides were the first technology for public spaces that attempted to do so. Nowadays, due to improvements in mobile computing, new multimedia guides are used not only to assist people with special necessities, such as individuals of different nationalities or individuals with hearing disabilities, but also all visitors who whish to learn about the a museum collection in an effective and interactive way.