Five Tech Trends to Keep an Eye On in 2016

Since the beginning of the year is always a good time to make predictions, we thought we would give it a try ourselves, but no crystal ball, thank you very much :-) So here’s a glimpse of the activities and trends we expect to see emerge (or prove their staying power) in museums and heritage sites in 2016.

Let’s begin with the ones we expect to make the biggest impact this year:

1. Immersive Technologies

As demand for a more and more realistic visitor experience increases, we’ve seen immersive technologies explode: virtual reality (read our article on VR here), augmented reality, mixed reality, 3D sound, and the list goes on…

Google Cardboard, Project Tango and others, like Microsoft Hololens, promise to make 2016 one of the most innovative years yet. Far from simply being gadgets, these technologies foster an ever more impressive user experience, taking storytelling to a whole new level.

2. Indoor Positioning Systems

In 2015, we saw an influx of iBeacon and Bluetooth Low Energy devices of all kinds. Initially, these technologies promised to revolutionize indoor positioning, with contextualized content, long battery life, limited maintenance, and ease of use… all at a relatively low cost.

As many sites today can now tell you, in practice, the experience is more complicated than anticipated. Installing beacons isn’t just a matter of taking them out of the box and distributing them around the site. They have to be set up with specific software and services if you really want to get the most out of their features, which has left many people feeling rather disappointed. To date, the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) of a beacon is typically higher than originally expected.

Even so, beacon technology continues to expand; which is how the Eddystone standard recently came to be. With the market as competitive as it is, we can expect to see a lot more innovation in this area, which will lead to more complete offerings and better performance.

Aside from beacons, other indoor positioning technologies requiring less infrastructure are likely to develop. Experimentation is currently underway. We’ll be sure to tell you more soon ;-)

3. Collaborative Storytelling

A trend toward collaborative activities at heritage sites has already started to appear and we expect the trend to grow even more in the future. Collaborative storytelling invites passionate individuals involved with museums and heritage sites to come together and create a story together, whether they are teachers, students, experts, tour guides, docents or visitors. This approach allows access to multiple points of view, making it possible to reach all types of visitors.

Here at GuidiGO, we piloted a similar project ourselves last year (entitled “Viewing Angles”) bringing together no less than 17 cultural sites and over 400 students and educators.

4. Digital Content

There’s nothing new about content digitalization. What is new, however, is that digital content is becoming more and more open access, which is another contributing factor to the increase in storytelling and collaboration. The possibility of sharing makes it more appealing to digitize content, so we expect to see a virtuous cycle develop where users are producing and sharing more of their own content.

As more content becomes accessible, new uses for it are likely to emerge, whether you’re preparing for your visit in advance, or wanting to relive the highlights of your visit after the fact. Take Coopers Hewitt and MOMA, for example. Those who are unable to visit sites in person will be able to take part in immersive experiences remotely; virtual reality will allow students to visit museums on the other side of the world, and Twitterbots will make the museum experience ubiquitous.

The quantity of information available to us will continue to increase at an exponential rate, thanks to the democratization and diversification of the tools we now have at our fingertips: 3D scanners, 360° cameras and videos, aerial images taken from drones, and more.

5. From Wearables Technology to Connected Devices

Born in 2014, the wearable market took a break in 2015 – at least in our field. Today, Google and its subsidiary, Nest, seem to be exploring new uses for Google Glass, though they have not yet announced an official release date.

GuidiGO has been a “Glass at work” partner from the beginning. We were impressed by the impact this technology could have on cultural interpretation. During our experiments – at the Keith Haring exhibit at the De Young Museum in San Francisco, then at Velazquez and Picasso.mania at the Grand Palais in Paris – thousands of users shared our enthusiasm and told us they’d love to relive the experience at future exhibits.

Nevertheless, the break Google has taken with Glass shows their desire to improve on the technology before making it accessible to the wider public.

Today, smart watches are all the rage – they sprouted up like mushrooms under our Christmas trees this year. Smart watches are certainly great for very specific uses like real time notifications, performance tracking, and collecting health data. But in our field, these tools have not yet found their utility, as they aren’t yet capable of providing a compelling visitor experience in and of themselves.

However, wearable technology isn’t limited to watches and glasses. As confirmed at the latest CES, wearable technology will soon be everywhere, and sensors could soon make different levels of interactivity possible for visitors.

★ What’s next?…

Let’s leave 2016 behind for a moment and look even further… we can already count on two more trends:

Smart Personalization

When Big Data and Artificial Intelligence come together, museums and heritage sites will be able to offer uniquely personalized guided visits. The visit will be tailor-made based on the individual’s profile (his or her tastes, visit history, activity on social media, etc.) and on data sent from sensors placed throughout the site to capture position, popular areas, temperature, sound levels, and more.

It will then be possible to orient an art lover toward works most likely to interest him or her, right at the moment when conditions would be most pleasant; or to invite parents to explore a city as a family, using a treasure hunt that’s been adapted to the age of their children.

Pervasive and Invisible Apps

Today we talk about apps that are compatible with iOS and Android. Tomorrow, we’ll probably talk about apps being compatible with Messenger, Snapchat, Instagram, Google Maps, and the list goes on. In the near future, mono usage and daily usage apps seem destined to fuse into one. Many interfaces are likely to move toward a card system which aggregates content from multiple sources in one place. A few attempts at this have already made an appearance, such as the Discover feature on Snapchat, or Uber on Messenger.

So there you have it. It’s time for our little journey into the future to come to an end. We’ll meet you back here in a few months to see how well our predictions hold up!

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