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September 2015
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Computer Networking and Telecommunications Research

Invention brings interactive experience for museum visitors

Hannah Sand and Holly Chaplin try out mi-Guide

Hannah Sand and Holly Chaplin from Hartford High, Northwich try out the mi-Guide.

A pioneering invention that delivers the sights and sounds of museum displays to the palms of visitors' hands has been unveiled by a Salford University engineering academic at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI).

Called mi-Guide, Professor Nigel Linge's handheld innovation allows visitors to see and hear video and audio information as they walk from exhibit to exhibit. The device has been developed specifically for the Connecting Manchester Gallery at MOSI, which launched last month.

The mi-Guides use a WiFi network and RFID tags, enabling the portable devices to deliver images, sounds, videos and text when nearby objects are scanned - via a touch-screen monitor which visitors can navigate.

Nigel said: "mi-Guide brings the museum visitor experience into the 21st century. Many people will have used an audio guide when visiting galleries or stately homes. mi-Guide moves this technology on - to give a full multimedia experience. It is one of the first of its kind."

Pauline Webb, Collections Manager at MOSI said: "We're delighted that Nigel and his team chose to work in partnership with MOSI on the development of the mi-Guide. It's particularly fitting that this cutting-edge multimedia guide is being piloted in a new gallery that tells the story of communications in the Manchester area.

"mi-Guide is a great way for visitors to gain access to detailed information and a range of fascinating stories about collection items, depending on their level of interest. The user is very much in control, which means they can skip bits which are not of interest and quickly find the information relevant to them at the touch of a button."

Nigel's next challenge is to enable school pupils to benefit from the mi-Guide. "We're working on technology that allows kids to use the device in classrooms and then follow this up with museum tours that specifically relate to their lessons," Nigel said. "It has real potential as an educational tool."

This fact has been recognised by the EPSRC which has just awarded Nigel and his team a grant of over £200,000 to fund a further two years of development.

As technology moves on, Nigel is excited about the possibilities. He said: "More and more people will be carrying their own portable computers with them as the mobile phone continues to evolve. It won't be long before systems like mi-Guide are delivered through our mobiles.

"This has to be the way forward for museums in the 21st century. Visitors have a thirst for knowledge and we need to keep innovating to find ways of delivering a better experience to them."