Case study: Building multilingual museum tours in the blink of an eye

Community inclusion and universal accessibility must be a central concern for cultural institutions.

The cost and time required to create multilingual content forced museums to limit the number of languages available, but also the amount of multilingual content available in their visitor app.

This pain point led Livdeo to think over the methodology required for museums to meet this need. This is why, since 2017, the GEED platform has integrated an AI-based automatic translation module, as well as a synthetic voice generation tool.

GEED provides museums with a tool for automatic translation and generation of synthetic voices in 24+ languages. Cultural institutions can thus define their multilingual visit scenarios without impacting their budgets.

Waterloo Memorial

The Waterloo Memorial integrates a game-changing visit companion web-app

Few cultural places, as well as historical sites, lend themselves to audio experiences. If you don’t tell stories there, where will you?

Historical sites also stand out from other institutions regarding the breadth of visitors they welcome; schools, history lovers, families searching for an accessible and relatable cultural experience, locals trying to make sense of their heritage, and tourists, many tourists!

They come from all over the world because their history has been affected by a historical event or simply because they want to learn more about a historical chapter they find intriguing.

With such a diverse audience, it’s hard to imagine how historical sites manage to provide every type of audience with a personalized, immersive experience while renewing those experiences often — we all know audio guides are excellent but can age quickly.

At the Waterloo Memorial Museum, we have found a way to deliver high-quality immersive experiences for multilingual communities.

Our team doesn’t need to be fluent in any of those nine languages or hire voiceover actors to make the audio come to life. Moreover, we update all of the content of those audio clips in the blink of an eye with no extra cost or development.

That is all thanks to the GEED Translation Engine & Natural Voice Generation modules provided by Livdeo.

The Memorial’s mannequin gallery

The Waterloo Memorial

Let us start with introductions. The Waterloo Memorial commemorates the great battle in 1815 and saw Napoleon’s French army defeated by a British-led coalition under the Duke of Wellington’s command and including troops from the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, and Prussia. Located just 20 kilometers south of Brussels in Braine-l’Alleud, near the city of Waterloo, the site welcomes 170,000 visitors a year from all over the world.

The Memorial includes a 2000 square meters exhibition with immersive decors, a 4D film, and a myriad of multimedia content.

The site also boasts The Lion’s Mound (a hill overlooking the battlefield), The Hougoumont Farm harboring an interactive exhibit about the violent confrontations that once unfolded there, and, finally, the Panorama. This circular building hosted a remarkable masterpiece — a 12 meters-high and 110 meters circular-long painting by Louis-Jules Dumoulin dating from 1912.

Screenshots of Waterloo Memorial multilingual visit Web-App

Multilingual content in the blink of an eye

At the beginning of 2020, the Waterloo Memorial decided it was time to modernize their tour. They already had a traditional audio guide that looks like a TV remote. Visitors press digits corresponding to the galleries’ labels, which offered content in four different languages (French, English, Dutch, and German).
The Waterloo Memorial had two goals :

  • To add five more languages (Romansh, Russian, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese)
  • To update content in all nine languages easily, quickly, and without hiring translators and voice actors every time.

That’s where Livdeo’s web-app enabled GEED solution comes in with its Automatic Translation and Text to Speech (TTS) modules.

Thanks to those, museum staff can create many written content in their mother tongue within the GEED back-office. The content is then automatically translated into the nine languages they chose.

Multilingual Management form

The voice-generating system instantaneously produces audio content from the texts. The voices sound so natural, and the accents are so on point that it is impossible to tell that they are synthetically produced.

Whenever the team wants to change an audio track, they edit the original text in the back-office, and everything gets automatically updated across all languages.

Over 50 000 words were translated and turned into audio content thanks to the Waterloo Memorial’s GEED solution.

Visitors feedback

- Great interactivity in the museum! The children were very interested!

- The audio guide app works very well, which is quite rare for museums. Moreover, the guide’s information is not too long, just enough to have a complement and to better understand the context. Congratulations!

Testimonial from Chinese visitors :

- We were delighted to be able to make this visit in our language. The translation of the texts was perfect. The synthesized voice of all the content was also an advantage of the visit to listen while walking around.

Re-using existing content and POI

It would have been a shame, considering that the Waterloo Memorial opened in 2015, to throw away all the team's work thus far.

Livdeo integrated the existing audio material into the brand-new web app. Visitors can therefore enjoy them alongside more recent content, all on their smartphones (BYOD).

The same goes for the 120 Points of Interest (POI) that pertained to the former audio guide. To these, Livdeo added another 240 POI, including 48 to the monumental Panorama painting.

With GEED, the Waterloo Memorial could also provide interactive content to the museum’s existing timeline — a painted frieze that runs across the galleries’ walls. Visitors can access short texts and audio and either follow the French army’s timeline or the Seven’s coalition’s timeline.

New hassle-free and accessible experiences for visitors

The Waterloo Memorial wanted to create additional content and points of interest to their current visit tour and offer visitors new and diverse ways to interact with the collection. Thanks to the GEED solution, they could do so on many levels.

Visit Session with web-app companion

Easily accessible content

No more button pressing, code entering, or screen-taping: with GEED’s image recognition system, visitors point their smartphone’s camera at an object (as if to take a photo) for the content — whether audio, video, or text — to be activated on their device.

This precise technology is enabled for every mannequin of the Museum’s mannequin’s gallery. This is an impressive feat when you consider the potential glare produced by the lights on the glass window separating them from the audience and how very little detail differentiates some of them from the rest.

Video Screens and Projections audio synchronization

The smooth experience allowed by the image-recognition module is complemented by a unique module provided by Livdeo’s DEEALOG platform: perfect synchronization between videos played in the gallery space and their respective audio tracks, which visitors get to listen to through their smartphone.

Deealog enabled audio synchronization for Video Projection
Deealog enabled audio synchronization for Video Projection

Visitors get to watch the video on a big screen in the gallery (rather than on their phone’s screen) while enjoying its sound directly into their earphones.

An instant visit app on BYOD

Thanks to GEED, hardware located on the Waterloo Memorial Site, all web-app contents are directly broadcasted to visitors’ smartphones; no download is needed. Nothing is stored on people’s phones. Visitors are merely accessing streamed content (audio, video, images, texts) through their smartphones.

Results

The web-app launch took place during the first European COVID-19 lockdown with Livdeo testing and adjusting everything remotely.

When the Waterloo Memorial reopened in May, visitors quickly adopted the new web app. Between May 15th and September 30th, visitors accessed the web app 17 800 times with an average usage time of 40 minutes! During summer 2020, 26% of visitors used the web app versus less than 1% with the former audio guide.

It’s been an improvement both for visitors and the Museum staff, who are already planning on adding more languages to their tour app.

If you want to learn more about GEED and other solutions provided by Livdeo, feel free to visit our website.

Ciprian Melian, Livdeo CEO, was also recently interviewed in the Do It Different podcast. You can listen to the full episode here.

@Livdeo provides inclusive solutions for Museums and Cultural Institutions to create digital layers without constraints for visitors. @geedinfo @deealog