Wednesday, August 29, 2012

QR codes and visual recognition

It is an indicator of the speed of technological development that six months on from my previous blog on QR codes there is substantial movement in both the specific QR space and the broader alternatives such as image recognition.

A number of great links around. First up, Nancy Proctor is fast cementing her position as the leading commentator on this space from her role as Head of Mobile Strategy and Initiatives at the Smithsonian. She is a key player at Museums and the Web (which she co-organises), and the US MuseumComputer Network and was the key note speaker this year at MuseumNext conference which draws all the European museum bods in this area. That key note is well worth downloading here, focusing on the need for museum technologists to continue to focus on the outputs of new technologies rather than the technologies themselves.  Some technologies will succeed and some will fail, and the biggest issue for museums will be how to choose where to invest hard won funds. Check out also an enlightening interview with Nancy at Nancy Proctor on Mobile in Museums (and Revolutionary Change).

On which note it is clear that QR codes are here to stay more firmly than they were a year ago. Follow the chat on the Linked In Museums In TheDigital Age Group Members to see how many museums world wide are using them. My view is that despite the ugliness of QR codes they are increasing recognised as an entry point for object information and are easy to read, whereas image recognition technologies, despite being less in your face (with the consequential  disadvantage of course that you do not know they are present) are still struggling with recognising anything apart from complex two dimensional artworks, i.e. they do not easily recognise simple images, photographs and many three dimensional objects.

Where this current round of technologies continues to track towards is a confluence of the benefits of the various solutions which ultimately will provide:

  • access to information via visitor's own device ( or via a device that can be lent by the museum)
  • a level of information that transcends the current offering of wall labels, video screens and audio tours. It will be able to be personalised, and allow the visitor to learn what they like at the level of information they choose
  • active engagement via social media allowing the visitor to engage with other visitors and share comments
  • dynamic wayfinding that provides an active guided navigation experience around the museum and also draws attention to objects the visitor may be interested in on the route followed
  • location awareness allowing the visitors own device to work out what the visitor is looking at without prompting or actively locating

Probably the nearest example of this can be seen in the forthcoming Gallery 1 project at the Cleveland Museum of Art - details of the paper to be given on it at the November annual MCN Conference are at the MCN site.  But I am sure I shall be blogging in less than six months with a further technology update.

Julian Bickersteth
Managing Director

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