We have a lot of ideas on exhibit design and emerging technologies that we can’t wait to share, but before digging into specifics, we wanted to talk a little bit about why we think an open, free multitouch framework is an important tool for museums and educational institutions.
1) It brings a exciting, yet familiar, type of interaction to the museum floor.
Many handheld devices now have multitouch and, as an interactive format on a small scale, it has been wildly successful. Using a direct tactile form of interaction on a technical device rather than a controller or buttons has revolutionized the way that interfaces are designed. It’s also been an exciting development for the end user, with devices like the iPhone developing an almost cult following. And thanks to the widespread adoption of multitouch displays on mobile phones, large numbers of people are familiar with these types of interfaces. Open Exhibits allows developers and educators to take advantage of a growing technology to create exhibits that are easy to interact with and exciting to experience.
2) It can transform an individual tool into a social tool.
Open Exhibits core and its modules allow developers to take advantage of multitouch interaction to create larger-scale, multi-user exhibits and extend the technology to create social, educational tools rather than solitary experiences. Since visitors are sharing physical space as well as interactive objects, collaboration and dialogue are encouraged. A key difference between multitouch and traditional interactive design is that multitouch can transform a design element into an actual tactile “object” that can be passed between visitors. This allows multitouch to promote social interactions around and within the exhibit in a way that traditional interactives can’t.
3) It allows adopters to shape an emergent technology.
Multitouch interfaces that involve or require multiple users are still relatively new, and designs for such interfaces have a lot of room for expansion and innovation. Open Exhibits will allow museums and educational developers to participate in the important process of debating and defining effective ways to design and build multi-user, multitouch interfaces, and how to best use such interfaces in an educational context.
4) It expands the scope of effective exhibit design.
As we found with our electromagnetic spectrum exhibit, multitouch can allow the effective presentation of complex educational topics in a comprehensive way that would be much more difficult in a traditional exhibit format. Multitouch interfaces like our EM spectrum exhibit allow multi-layered exhibits that offer a dynamic, memorable experience for both the small child who drags a picture back and forth across the screen and the adult who reads every caption about different light wavelengths. Well-designed multitouch exhibits can act as both an attractor to casual passers-by and a truly in-depth look at a specific educational topic, making multitouch exhibits an important possible component of any museum.
by Erin Rose on October 4, 2010