Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Thursday, June 9, 2005

Audio Virtual Guides Open Up New Opportunities For Art And Nature Enthusiasts

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Have you ever dreamed of being a talented gallery guide being able to share and involve unlimited groups of curious tourists about the beauty of your city art rather than about architectural masterpieces or historical monuments of your area?

Photo credit: Ceiling at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada by Boardtopia Girl. Bottom shot by Igor Kasalovic

Until now, to be such a guide, you not only needed a great dose of knowledge on the things you had to say but you had also to physically embark to be impersonate such a role.

That meant that you hardly found Japanese guides to the Vatican Museums in Rome, as well being able to find a Thai-speaking one at Metropolitan Museum in New York City.

But things may be about to be changed in some deep and profoundly fascinating ways.

Thanks to the low-cost new media audio recording technologies available today on and to the relative ease and zero cost with which these can be distributed to anyone around the world, anyone anywhere can become a great virtual guide for the fellow nationals who will travel to see a distant place.


By utilizing simple audio recording tools on your computer, it is very easy for anyone to record a dedicated audio tour inside a gallery or museum, by either going once on-site with a small portable audio recorder or by following a well-planned remote tour of the place with the help of maps, photos, notes and printed guides collected by you or others at that place.

But how to distribute and make available such pre-narrated tours?

Podcasting, the Web and RSS technology are the answer to this.

By posting your recordings in digital format on your site, blog and RSS feed, you make it very easy for anyone having an Internet connection to download your "virtual guide" to their preferred location.

Yes, as digital files linked from your site pages (or better yet from a dedicated mini-site devoted just to this offering you may want to create ) or as audio files enclosures embedded into your RSS feed, your voice recordings can become quite easy to download (even automatically in the case of RSS) and can then be transferred to your preferred portable media device, like an iPod or any other portable MP3 player.

Imagine now how effective that could be, as travelers to a remote tropical beach in a far away land, or friends going to visit the ancient Maya ruins in Mexico, could have your sustained voice guidance, expertise, humor and viewing tips as they move through those locations.

And while very few people may be generous and creative enough to do this for their traveling friends, once you start to look at this from the perspective of creating an online income stream that gives wings to some of your natural talents and interests, you have a great possibility at hand.

To summarize: if you can create an audio track that can be played as "pausable" virtual guide by people traveling to far away places, you are in a position to make some money, gain gradual credibility and authority as an expert on that topic or place and provide a uniquely memorable new way to someone else to discover, learn and see things that would have not appeared obvious or evident otherwise.

The Metropolitan Museum in New York for example can now be visited with the help of a multiplicity of virtual guides depending on what kind of experience and focus you would like to have.

As you can easily imagine this would even be an asset worth offering to visitors by the museums itself. For a small charge or freely available with some form of sponsorship, these audio mini-guides could well enormously enhance the user experience of any such visit while adding all the comfort that comes from being able to pause your personal private guide and not having to go along with a group of 30.

Working in this very direction David Gilbert, Assistant Professor of Organizational Communication Department of Communication Arts Marymount Manhattan College New York is leading a student project called Art Mobs.
Art Mobs' mission is to explore the intersection of communication, art, and mobile technology.

While they have already produced their own audio guides for the Museum of Modern Art they are also inviting others to send in homemade audio guides that they can make available on the web with theirs.

Here are some examples.

The BBC News has also caught the story unfolding and has made the topic the focus of a news story of which you can see the video highlight right here.

If you start to think of it the applications for such audio virtual tours are limitless and not only they provide a venue for learning and discovering places, art and architecture in whole new ways, it gives way to an interesting market opportunity for talented would be guides, who could well be selling low-cost subscriptions to their unique releases or offering rare to find virtual guides in their own local languages.

What do you think?

Want to know more?
Watch a video about Art Mobs over at RocketBoom.

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posted by Robin Good on Thursday, June 9 2005, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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