Roosegaarde's interactive installation made out of aluminium foils that fold open upon interaction with humans. Lotus 7.0 - Studio Roosegaarde with Lotte Stekelenburg

Which type of interactive installation is best suited for a voicebot in a museum?

Interactive installations can be found in many museums, but not all are equally successful. According to the research paper “Learning from Interactive Museum Installations About Interaction Design for Public Settings”, there are a number of things to take into account. (Hornecker, Stifter, 2006)

First of all, most people visit museums in groups, and sharing the experience with others plays a big role in the overall visit. Therefore it’s crucial that the interactive installations in museums support group activities, both in terms of the activity itself and the physical space.

Activities that stimulate interaction, communication and learning from each other, are great for groups. Another way of encouraging teamwork is by providing different roles that group members can take on during the activity.

For the physical aspect of the installation, it’s important that there’s enough space to accommodate all the members the group, and provide them with a good view of the exhibit. Touchscreens are a good way to do this, because it’s both interactive and it’s easy to see what others are doing from a distance.  

(Hornecker, Stifter, 2006)

A second thing to take into account, is that all the exhibits in a museum are competing for the attention of the visitors. The first ten seconds of the interaction need to give people a reason to stay, otherwise they will move on to the next thing that catches their eye. So, it’s crucial that the the first interactions are fun, simple and straightforward, to give users a quick win experience. After this critical first impression, the activity can slowly become more and more complex.

(Hornecker, Stifter, 2006)

The third thing to note is that, according to the observations made by Hornecker & Stifter, the only exhibits in the museum that reached all types of visitors, were the hands-on, interactive exhibits. These interactive installations were able to attract visitors of all ages and interests, even from a large distance. The same can’t be said for all the other things on display. Elderly people often avoided anything that looked like a computer, walking around these installations in a circle. (Hornecker, Stifter, 2006)

Mixed-media installations, that combined more traditional haptic input devices with modern technologies, proved to be the most successful. This combination carried elderly visitors over the threshold of using a computer, whilst also encouraging children and teenagers to interact with objects other than a screen. This meant that one installation was able to create interest and curiosity about an unfamiliar topic for all types of visitors, which is what a museum is ultimately all about. (Hornecker, Stifter, 2006)

The points mentioned above are crucial for any installation in a museum. So what would the ideal interactive installation for a voicebot in a museum look like?

First of all, the interactive installation should be inclusive. As mentioned in the Target Audience Analysis, which can be found in the appendix, a very diverse group of people regularly visits museums. The voicebot should naturally be accessible to as many visitors as possible. Therefore, people should be able to ask questions and receive the answer in a number of different ways. (VRIND 2017)  
In this case, questions can either be asked by speaking into a microphone, by clicking on a frequently asked question, or by manually typing a question. The answers will be spoken through a speaker and appear as text (subtitles) on a screen.

On top of this, the voicebot should ideally be a mixed-media installation, as this has proven to be a successful way of engaging a broad audience. For the Historic Voicebot, the traditional haptic input device will be a vintage telephone, which visitors can pick up to ask questions and hear the answer. The modern technological aspect of the installation will be a touchscreen, via which visitors can write their own questions, and read the answers given by the voicebot.

Thirdly, the first interactions with the voicebot need to be fun and simple, to quickly engage visitors. With the Historic Voicebot, people only have to pick up the phone or click on one of the frequently asked questions to start a conversation with the historical figure. This should give them a quick win experience. To catch the eye of passers by, an animated version of the person will be present on the touchscreen. It will move around and invite people over for a quick chat.

Last but not least, the space around the voicebot should be big enough to entertain a medium sized group. Whilst not everyone is able to talk to the voicebot at the same time, people will be able to follow the conversation via the touchscreen display.

Sources:

HORNECKER (E.), STIFTER (M.), Learning from Interactive Museum Installations About Interaction Design for Public Settings, 2006, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/221332107_Learning_from_interactive_museum_installations_about_interaction_design_for_public_settings  Date of reference: 10th of December 2018.

VRIND 2017, Statistiek Vlaanderen, Cultuur en vrije tijd, 2017, https://www.statistiekvlaanderen.be/sites/default/files/docs/vrind2017-6-cultuur-vrije-tijd.pdf Date of reference: 13th of November 2018.

Image:

Roosegaarde’s interactive installation made out of aluminium foils that fold open upon interaction with humans. Lotus 7.0 – Studio Roosegaarde with Lotte Stekelenburg https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lotus_7.0_interactive_installation_by_Roosegaarde.jpg

22/12/2018