Case Study: From a Museum Visit Solution to an Online Virtual Visit Platform
at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) is located on Sydney Harbour and receives over 1 million visitors a year. The Museum presents the work of contemporary Australian and international artists, including highlights from the MCA Collection (over 4000 artworks).
The technology provided by Livdeo, embedded in a totally responsive web app, enabled the Museum to extend and plan new visitor experiences. We have learned about audiences and visitor behaviour, both in the exhibition space and outside of the Museum, in ways we never thought possible.
Jean-Pierre Chabrol, Head of Digital Media , Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
The Museum wanted to offer visitors an easy-to-use, feature-rich digital platform during their visit to the MCA. This would allow visitors to access digital content onsite (including audio and video) and engage with the artworks on display using their own smartphones.
The Museum also wanted to make the platform accessible to people with a visual or hearing impairment, and make the content available in multiple languages.
Livdeo solution with GEED / DEEALOG platforms
The integration of the project by Livdeo followed several phases, from the integration of the mobile visit enhancement solution (Phase 1), to the evolution of the solution into a platform fully responsive with all the Livdeo technical enhancement (image recognition, audio synchronisation with video player) — current Phase 3.
Phase 1: Web App accessible on visitor devices
The visit application is provided directly on the visitors’ devices through a web browser.
Visitors connect to the Museum’s freely accessible in-house wifi network and then access the visit app.
In addition to the visitors’ devices-based web app, a native application variant is installed on 20 on-load devices for visitors who do not have a smartphone. The native application (iOS) uses the same content and visual rendering as the web application.
Easy artwork engagement using camera scan
The visitors’ engagement with the artworks should be simple and fluid.
The visit application integrates a visual recognition feature by using the camera of a smartphone through the web browser.
Camera-based recognition works to detect artworks as a whole, either from a great distance or by zooming in on the artworks’ details.
Once the detection is made, the visitor accesses the details of the artwork which can be presented as gigapixel animations, videos, audios, texts, slideshows, etc.
Several ways to engage with the artworks and their details
The interpretation of the artworks can be accessed in various ways, according to the visitor’s preferences:
- From the list of artworks in an exhibition
- Using the camera-based detection
- From the Museum map
The mobile app allows visitors to see the related artwork information or artwork details. This is very useful in the case of wide-format artworks such as murals or large installations.
As part of the exploration of the multi-panel painting Feng Shui fresco by the artist Guan Wei for example, the visitor has the option to scan any detail of the painting and access the explanations associated with each detail.
The dynamic multi-level Museum map allows the visitor to select and view the artwork information.
Hearing impaired accessibility
The museum wished to integrate a dedicated tour in Australian sign language (AUSLAN) in addition to the general tour for the Cornelia Parker exhibition.
When scanning an artwork or a wall label in the exhibition, the application offers the visitor access to the general or Auslan-interpreted version of the artwork description.
Visitors have the choice of starting the Auslan tour directly from the exhibition’s home screen or changing along the way.
From GEED Studio, the integration of the Auslan tour was carried out autonomously by the Museum’s digital team, using the “linked copy” feature from the general tour, defining the tour preferences (Auslan), and loading the videos and subtitle files.
Autonomy for the creation of visit scenarios
For each exhibition, the application includes an associated scenario made up of one or more visit tours. Different layers of interpretation and information can be created for the tours according to the type of audience, the required level of accessibility and language preferences.
The created visit tours can be duplicated or copied with references to the original tour. These features allow editors to speed up and facilitate the input of content associated with the visit stops.
Multi-media management is natively integrated in GEED Studio. Simply drag and drop video, audio, image and subtitle files directly to load them. Videos and audios are automatically transcoded to create variants compatible with all mobile / desktop internet browsers. The images are post-processed in several variants for optimal display in the visit application.
The integration of multilingual content is simplified as much as possible and can benefit from the “automatic/assisted translation” and “voice synthesis” modules.
Engaging with video screens from the visiting app
The museum’s exhibition spaces have a number of video screens showing interviews associated with the exhibited artworks. A solution for synchronizing the audio tracks directly on visitors’ smartphones was required.
The DEEALOG solution was used for the management and programming of video playlists on 10 screens including the integration of the associated audio synchronization module in the visit application.
Visitors may access the multilingual audio tracks in several ways: from the list of artworks or by scanning the wall labels associated with a screen using a camera.
The audio track broadcast on the visitor’s smartphone is synchronized with the video displayed on nearby screen.
Video screens can be included in the visit application as points of interest associated with the tour.
Animated exploration of the artworks in every detail
The display of large-scale artworks uses a gigapixel animation component synchronized with audio tracks for each language and complemented by subtitles.
These animations allow the visitor to focus their gaze on the different points of detail of the artwork according to the audio speech.
The Museum team is autonomous for the creation of high-resolution animated scenes using this dedicated editor.
After uploading a high-resolution image, and audio tracks for each desired language and subtitle files (srt, sub, vtt), the editing tool allows the user to focus on the artwork and define individual chapters. The transitions between the different viewpoints are automatic.
In addition to direct integration into the visit scenario, the animated scenes can be exported for integration on any website or social network. An embed code is then generated to facilitate integration into third-party websites.
The Analytics Module integrated into the GEED platform uses anonymous metrics for all interactions carried out by visitors in the visit application.
Based on a BigData “timeseries” technology, the dedicated tool provides access to a whole series of analysis dashboards:
- visiting sessions
- analysis of the displayed contents and tours
- visitor behaviours
- filters on different timeframes
- filters on audiences, accessibility, language, media types, etc.
Phase 2 — Wifi and limited internet connection
The Museum wanted to let visitors access the visit application using the free wifi provided on-site.
Although the Museum has optimal wifi coverage, the bottleneck concerns the outgoing connection to the internet. This is, by nature, limited, with a fixed bandwidth.
Solution: GEED box on existing wifi network
Livdeo’s answer consisted in providing two GEED box servers to offload internet traffic and allow a smooth on-site visit experience.
The GEED box servers in “Hybrid” mode use the existing wifi network for the distribution of visit applications and contents.
These dedicated GEED servers are physically installed in the Museum and interconnected in the existing wifi network.
The downloading of content associated with the visit application, the video screen synchronization, the camera recognition of on-display artworks are supported by the GEED box. The outgoing internet connection is no longer required as all content is synchronized in real time from the GEED box.
GEED box servers use automated procedures to synchronize and update content.
Phase 3 — MCA.art as a virtual tour platform
Lockdown and online presence for exhibitions
The current lockdown situation led the Museum to adapt the digital tools in order to provide 100% online, virtual tours.
The GEED platform rapidly enabled the evolution of the mobile visit application into a real platform for online virtual exploration of the exhibitions.
New features have been enabled in order to allow the integration of rich content associated with the artworks to be explored:
- VR scenes and 360-degree video immersion within the Museum’s exhibitions
- content enhancement through a “rich sections” editor.
- evolution of UI display formats: mobile / tablet / desktop multi resolutions
Immersive exploration of the artworks
The immersive exploration of the artworks is made possible through the VR module available in the GEED platform.
The fixed VR or 360-degree video scenes are associated with the different artworks to allow a simple and immersive exploration.
Each artwork features a variety of associated content to support their virtual exploration.
Some artworks will include an audio interview and a descriptive text, while others will show a VR 360-degree exploration of the exhibition, with several videos, audios, audio transcriptions, etc.
The digital team is autonomous in the creation of the content structure that best meets the presentation goals for each artwork and exhibition.
Scalable platform with self-management
The platform integrates an evolutive scenario management associated with the Museum’s past, present and future exhibitions.
Past exhibitions can be archived and exported as a dedicated application, with possible installation on third-party hardware/hosting environments. This guarantees a preservation of past productions and allows, if necessary, the opportunity to have a past exhibition exploration at any time, as it was represented in the visit application.
Ongoing exhibitions are automatically available in the real / virtual tours app.
Future exhibitions can be planned in advance and previewed in GEED Studio BackOffice at any time through a test app environment.
The versioning management is a key benefit for the Museum by allowing, in particular, to build test versions before the public deployment of a visit scenario.
Complete autonomy is possible for the digital team in creating rich visit scenarios by using the features available in GEED Studio :
- Videos and audios with automated encoding and autonomous management of multilingual subtitles
- VR 360-degree scenes
- Multilingual textual content
- Rich content structures for Visit Stations
- Tours management with accessibility layers
- Text-to-speech module for Australian English and more than 20 different languages
- Management of the archiving and creation of visit scenarios
- Video broadcast management on video screens and multilingual audio tracks availability in the visit application (Deealog)
- Automated training module for the camera based artworks recognition
- Hi-res animations editor for rich narrative creation
- Automated release and instant updates in the mca.art application
and more …
A reliable and robust solution
- cloud hosting and CDN acceleration
- visit application and associated assets are available in « static » versions, for optimized delivery to tens of thousands of simultaneous users
- access to the application online or on-site using the acceleration provided by the GEED box servers
External ressources cited on this article :
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia — https://www.mca.com.au/
MCA.art — https://www.mca.art
Livdeo — https://www.livdeo.com
GEED Platform — https://www.geed.info/en
DEEALOG Platform — https://www.deealog.com/en