Museum visitors hear tour via Bluetooth

Streaming MP3 audio over Bluetooth lets visitors wander the Melbourne Museum at will, always able to access relevant commentary

A prototype museum or gallery audio tour system using Bluetooth technology has been successfully demonstrated at the Melbourne Museum, in Australia.

Developed jointly by Melbourne-based Clarinox and Indian software giant Tata Consultancy Services, BeATS (Bluetooth enabled audio tour system) is designed to combine the best features of broadcast and CD/tape tours but eliminate their disadvantages.

Visitors can choose their own path through the exhibit, free of the restrictions imposed by a linear audio recording, and each section of commentary always starts at the beginning for every user.

Bluetooth is used to link the user device to access points spread around the premises, and to carry the streaming MP3 audio. The sound quality is high, and the system can accommodate multiple languages.

From the venue operator’s perspective, advantages include centralised storage of audio for ease of management and updating by its own staff, and the system can yield information about the routes taken by people and how long they spend at each point.

"We had a very good response to our invitation and it has provided us with some great ideas to incorporate into the final design," said Trish Messiter, business development director at Clarinox.

"TCS handled the software for user registration, central server, file dispatch to access points and statistics generation and reporting. Clarinox handled the Bluetooth hardware and software for the exhibit device transceiver and the user Bluetooth device," she added.

The use of Bluetooth means that when the design of the user device goes into production, it will be small, inexpensive and able to operate for many hours without recharging, Messiter claimed. "We wished to test in a real environment prior to the final step of finalising the hardware design, particularly to incorporate the user perspective. This is because change is relatively easy [and] inexpensive to incorporate at this point."

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