Monday, August 07, 2006

mobile phone audio tours

In my investigations of handheld and mobile technology applications in libraries, I have came across a number of companies that have worked with museums and cultural landmarks to create tours, guides, and more that are accessible via a cell phone. You're probably familiar with how many museums will have a two or three digit number next to a piece of artwork, and you rent a player at a museum and type in the number of the item in front of you to hear a short audio clip with more information. You can follow the numerical sequnce for a specific tour, or do a self-guided tour in any order you choose. Well, instead of requiring people to rent the special machines, and requiring museums to manage the rentals and equipment, the latest trend is to make this audio content available through a mobile phone. Users dial a special phone number on their own mobile phone, and use the phone keypad to select the number of what they want to learn more about.

One such company, Guide By Cell, is very interested in pursing further possibilities for the adoption of this technology in libraries. They are willing to provide three months of the service completely free to allow libraries to do pilot tests and see how this technology could be useful in their library. For example, here at the Simmons College Library, we are creating a first year orientation of our new library building that is accessible via mobile phones. The librarians managing the audio content simply call in and update their content similar to changing a voicemail message. This is easier for us right now because of the politics and equipment involved in recording and posting a podcast to the web - institutional politics and procedures for widespread podcasts are still in flux. Also, we know more users have mobile phones than mp3 players, and they can use the cell tour without having to connect to a computer or download the content. For potential users that have limited cell minutes or no mobile phone, we will also put the audio files onto an iPod they can check out from the Circulation desk.

If you can think of an application for this technology in your library and want to take advantage of the offer for three months of free service, please contact Dave at Guide By Cell

And I will keep you posted on how our Orientation cell phone tour trial goes this Fall.