Wednesday, August 1, 2012

New App Launches Today

From the desk of Kim Gough, Program Developer, Royal BC Museum

Today we are officially launching our newest Royal BC Museum app - Wifarer. Our first app, Aliens Among Us has been available on iTunes for Apple since November of 2011. Whereas the Aliens app is a citizen science project where we are asking users to help us locate and identify the location of alien species throughout the province our new Wifarer app is helping visitors locate themselves throughout the museum.

A year and a half ago we were approached by a local technology development company called Wifarer who had something really neat to offer. They had developed a system that can locate users indoors – kind of like GPS – but rather than using satellites it measures the strength of Wi-Fi signals from within the building. The appeal of this new technology was too tempting and the fact that it was a local company helped to seal the deal. However, mapping out the museum and seeing where you are is only half of what this app can do.

Because Wifarer knows where you are, it can give you location based content. Wifarer is available at a number of venues including shopping malls, conference centres and airports and more venues are on the way. When you are at the Royal BC Museum and you launch Wifarer, the app automatically knows you are at the museum and loads our information. When you are standing next to the Woolly Mammoth, just one example, it alerts you to additional text and audio for that exhibit. Part of my role has been to identify points of interest throughout the museum and then source the additional material to enrich these locations including images from BC Archives, behind the scenes secrets and videos. It has been a big learning curve for me – not only about technology and apps but I also learned a lot about the museum.

Now that Wifarer is live at the museum my job will be to evaluate how visitors engage with the app. Is the content appropriate, is there enough, do visitors still engage with one another and the exhibit or are they all walking around with their eyes down on the screen?

I hope you will come and try it. At this stage you must have your own Smart Phone in order to use the app. It works seamlessly on Android phones and improvements are underway for Apple as the locating function does not currently work with the iPhone. The app is available for free from you app store. Once at the museum you have to log onto our Wi-Fi system and then start exploring. Then let me know what you think.