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Local Tourist Guide in a (Linux) Box 79

Andrew Sealey writes "Antenna Audio, the largest heritage and tourism interpretation company has just licensed a location-based media platform and associated linux portable media device from a UK company called Node to enable them to do some pretty cool stuff with traditional tourist attractions. People will hire the linux based device at their entry point and then as they walk around and explore the attraction the device will search huge archives of rich media video and audio dependent on who a user is, where they are and what they are looking at. Their top sites in the US are places such as Alcatraz, MoMA in New York and Elvis Presley Graceland's property and the rumour is that Elvis's property may be one of the first to be converted to this new technology."
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Local Tourist Guide in a (Linux) Box

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    run windows?
    • we may be hearing that phrase more often. And that is in-spite of MS's work to eradicate Linux from every OEM.
  • privacy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by filefly ( 737894 )
    The privacy issues associated with this are bugging me... what a cute disguise for a way to track foreigners :-P
    • Re:privacy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Adrilla ( 830520 ) * on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @04:27AM (#13101685) Homepage
      That sounds a bit more paranoid than I believe. I think it's a good idea, to allow guided tours without needing a human drag you around and bore you with sections of the tour you don't care about and allows you to linger on exhibits you like. Plus the venue could allow the tour to be in your native language which is a huge upside. Overall, I like the idea and I see it as having a lot of potential.
      • Brilliant.

        1. Create tourist hot spot
        2. Create device for automated tours
        3. Fire human tour guides
        4. PROFIT!!
        • Re:privacy (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Adrilla ( 830520 ) *
          I'm not saying to fire the human guides, they're clearly better for group tours. I'm saying for the single person who may have a more vested interest on going solo, this could be the better solution. Let the person learn more about a particular artist, or art style, something more in depth than the tour guide who'll more than likely just glance over a section or not have to battle with 8 other people to get a question answered from a guide. It's all right there in the linux device. In fact, renting the dev
    • oh noes! they know i am at graceland!

      of course, when i leave, i am unlikely to be able to keep the PDA, so the tracking will have to end there. still, should the government want to exterminate all tourists within the boundaries of graceland, you are right. there would be no hiding in cupboards.

    • Re:privacy (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jimmypw ( 895344 )
      I don't share your concern. The worst that could happen is that they will gather statistical information on the most popular attractions and then think of ways to market those areas that are not as popular... better. It's the way of business, Supply and Demand.

      ppl have to calm down after all not everyone is out to get you, some people genuinely want to make your life better. Except the govornment who tend to look after the other guy better.
  • by Knome_fan ( 898727 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @04:05AM (#13101633)
    Tux now lives in Graceland.

    (Gee, I shouldn't post while I'm still on my first coffe of the day...)
  • Gadgetry (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Emporerx ( 845349 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @04:09AM (#13101644) Homepage
    I'm a gadget guy, so this caught my interest with a quickness. From a quick look at the site I'm just wondering...
    Could there be some kind of GPS tech. involved where if you want to go to a specific exhibit in the museum it directs you that way from your current location. On a more mundane but no less important note, this would also be useful finding the restroom facilities at the game.(Important after a couple of beers)

    These are the thoughts that keep me out of the really good schools I guess.
    • I was just at MoMA on Sunday (one of the locations using Node technology) but I didn't even bother with the official audio tour. Instead I subscribed to Art Mobs' [] podcasts. Best audio guides to an art museum I've ever heard.

      Now if they could combine the guerilla art commentary with GPS contextualization it'd be perfect.

    • Not GPS, at least for the museum, and probably for the stadium too. It doesn't work without a view of the sky. If they set up fixed point transmitters the device could be designed to be able to triangulate it's position, that would probably be very useful for a museum tour. Of course, they could probably just use a short range wireless signal that activates the exhibit display when you are close enough.
    • I think GPS wouldn't work too well in a museum or something. It'd work great at Stonehenge, but not so much a large, thick walled building like the National Gallery in London. You'd get to much signal weakening and bouncing. They could do it so it depended on the last info point you were at, though. Like "Facing the big statue of the Greek guy, turn left and go through the door" or have a map or something. That's a cool idea, though.
  • Seems futuristic enough. Seems like it would only appeal to a very limited audience though. Probably to expensive to implement. If I went on a tour of some place exotic, I'd much rather prefer a live person giving me a tour, or a headset and audio tour then having to lug a gameboy thing around and look at it. I could see this kind of technology making an otherwise boring tourist spot much more exciting though. Oh, wait a minute...
    • Not all locations are big enough to have guides that speak Italian, French, German or Japanese on call. The possibility to give guided tours in many different languages is where this solution shines.

      It is also a very good solution for city-size museums (like Venice, Firenze), where you would spend an entire day walking around.
  • Distraction? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I think it's quite weird, distracting the tourist from the real thing. Sure, some trivia may be useful, but do I really want MEDIA flooding me when I stare at something ? Isn't the whole point of BEING there kind of defeated by staring at multimedia available to you from anywyere else ?
    • Re:Distraction? (Score:3, Informative)

      You know you could always turn it off, or not get it at all, I don't think they are suggesting that using it at all times is mandatory... I myself would like something like this. I live in the metro DC area and would use this often if they implemented it at the Smithsonian.
    • Re:Distraction? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Adrilla ( 830520 ) *
      If they use it correctly it could be great, imagine for one person looking at a painting it could be a 2 minute quick rundown of the painting and it's significance, and for someone else standing right next to that person it could be a one hour in depth bio of the artist, a demo of how the paint style is done, a video of the inspiration place of the painting, show work of the work of his mentor's and people who were inspired by the artist and then show you a realtime gps map of where to find their work in th
    • I agree. You're at the Louvre Museum, are you going to go through the museum looking at the bloody PDA or actually looking at the Monets on display ?

      I certainly don't want to see/hear the condensed Reader's Digest biography of Monet. If that's what I want I don't need to physically be there.

  • Spyware ?? Adware.?? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jeet81 ( 613099 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @04:23AM (#13101678)
    What about adware concerns? I am sure it will track all your whereabouts at all times and send you ads relating to those whereabouts. Technology is all about profit!
    • Appearing on display: Prison Mess Hall

      Voice on device: "This is the Prison Mess Hall, where gansters such as Al Capone and the Birdman ate there meals. The prisoners were served nutritious meals ... "


      "Speaking of nutritious meals, did you know that McDonald's on Market Street in San Francisco has its Fruit and Walnut Salad on sale for 99 cents? Get your FRUIT BUZZ after you escape from Alcatraz!"

  • by Atario ( 673917 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @04:26AM (#13101682) Homepage
    ...and I just hope they make them less restrictive than the current audio-tour players. They were ok in most respects, except that it was not possible to rewind beyond the most recent "checkpoint" on the tour. Missed the end of that bit? Sorry, gotta keep the turnover up...keep moving!

    Besides that, I think it would be rather distracting from the real-life thing you're there to see to have to devote a lot of eyeball time to watching a tiny screen. Much better would be some sort of head-mounted heads-up display overlaid on whatever you're looking at (inertial orientation sensors?). Circles and arrows (and an audio paragraph describing what each one is (thanks Arlo)) would actually be quite an improvement over the clunky method in the audio-only tour: "Now walk toward the door, away from A and B block, and stop at the windows on the right..." Sheesh.

    Come to that point, it would probably be simpler to have wireless headphones fed from a roving tour robot, with a high-mounted screen to watch suplemental materials on, and a laser pointer to...well, point things out. This would actually be better than regular human tour guides, as competing tour groups would wind up competing with each other for sound.

    Unless maybe you just give the human tour guide a corresponding headset mic and a laser pointer. Then all you're missing is the actual supplemental video. Hmmm.
    • Sign Your Idea May Be A Little Too Complex #984:

      It contains the phrase "it would probably be simpler to have wireless headphones fed from a roving tour robot"
      • Yeah, what the hell is that bit about the robot? It's completely unnecessary.

        Carlsbad Caverns has (used to have?) a system of repeating audio at various points, transmitted by very low power FM (or is it AM?). You rent and carry a small receiver with you, and listen to the audio at various places along the tour. The transmitters are clearly marked, so all you have to do is stand next to one, and you get some info. Each audio loop is fairly short, so if you miss something, just wait for it to repeat.


      • Wireless headphones are common consumer-level items; and when I say "robot", I don't mean The Terminator. I'm talking about one of those hospital-bots -- travel a predefined route, avoid obstacles/announce "excuse me", display video and audio (the latter through the a transmitter, of course). It would be simpler in that it wouldn't need the pill delivery/what-have-you mechanisms that a real hospital-bot has. And I remind you that those hospital-bots have been around for years and years. None of this is
    • The audio tour for Bodyworlds 2 [] just had a handheld device with a numeric keypad, and each display had a two digit number. You punch in that number, it tells you what you're looking at. This should be comprehensible to anyone able to use a telephone. I believe there were also pause, seek, and repeat functions, but anyone should be able to repeat the whole loop without asking for help (just punch in the number again). Not only that, but the same text was printed on a paper sign within the exhibit, along with
      • Whitby Abbey [] and several other English Heritage [] sites that kind of audio tour.

        However this device was too complex for my Gran (she can use a telephone ... omg can she use a telephone....., but she couldn't get this gadget thing to work for her. And Partially sighted / blind visitors would have difficulty with the number on sign interface.

        A device that knows where you are and can thus be set up to just play when you are in the right place is a much better idea (a great idea). (It
  • Move over Elvis; Linux is the
  • Only new on linux (Score:2, Informative)

    by ear1grey ( 697747 )

    This application isn't exactly novel, and not really "new technology" - the story is just pandering to Linux fanboys. Please, put the iconic evanelism aside, get over the my OS is better than yours tedium and concentrate on the usefulness and usability of the service that's delivered.

    Companies such as Lapavalley [] have been successfully delivering portable multimedia guides for many years already. I've used them in Marwell Zoo [] where they'd used Palm Tungsten's to great effect, with kids, grannies, teachers

  • Having used those handset audio guided tour things, I can see that this is certainly a step up.

    What would be even better would be to have some standard system whereby anyone with a wireless enabled PDA type device can walk into some attraction/theme park, and fire up their own PDA through which the audio/video can be viewed over some standard URL. Those rental things are often damaged or otherwise not working a lot of the time anyway.

    The next step (or perhaps the first step) could even be a system where any mobile phone can be used as a guided tour handset. A combination of a micro-cell and custom phone system (Asterisk?) could achieve this.
    • you seem to be forgetting that these companies have to make some money to keep offering those services.
      I don't think some coins offered voluntarily by tourists at the exit would make up for their expenses.

      any login/credit-card-payment etc would complicate the system and scare away those concerned about their personal data being gathered by some company.
      to me, paying cash at the entrance (hirepoint they call it) and not worrying about the cellphones' batteries doesn't seem that bad at all
  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @04:58AM (#13101761) Journal
    I have thought about building a small system for Homes. It would be nice to advertise your house via a local website. As the car drives up, the customer can have info and a virtual tour of the place. In addition, they can save the buy info on their computer.
  • Now, I'm just waiting for the next generation device:

    * The device you buy that hooks up - world wide - on which ever avialable network and determines where you are to give you the travel- or other relevant information.

    * The device that reads ahead in time and knows where you're heading to give you the information before you get there

    * The device that reads your mind and knows where you really want to be and gives you the information on how to get there, where to stay, and where to get a stiff drink when
  • ...Linux could guide me though installing device drivers or a GCC cross-compiler!
  • Thank you. Thank you very much.
  • Already implemented (Score:3, Informative)

    by Kuruderu ( 203436 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @05:42AM (#13101845) Homepage
    A small county in Denmark has already implemented this idea, aCon allows tourists to dial a phone number from their cell phones and via the phone recieve a detailed description af the attraction or site they are at. Not as "media rich" as this story's device this i think is more user friendly and less invasive in terms of privacy. Also it can be done via _any_ cellphone that works in Denmark, Europe.
  • Disney has a great fun way to explore their theme parks in Florida. Pal Mickey is a little toy that vibrates and giggles as you walk past various hotspots dotted around the parks. You squeeze his tummy and he says something to keep kids interested in the likes of Epcots world showcase (a bit like a museum in places) or messages about queue lengths and show times. The interface is very simple and non intrusive, you can just ignore him if you are busy eating or something and he'll repeat his message up to 5 t
  • ...this sounds interesting, as long as they "involve" the user to a larger extent than previous, similar efforts.
    Perhaps each sector of could be presented in an icon-based GUI, allowing users to choose what (and when..) they want information about.

    On a side note, this could also mean new employment opportunities for webdesigners and such...
  • by Glyndwr ( 217857 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @06:04AM (#13101890) Homepage Journal
    ...and an ex-colleague of mine works there. Every so often, he spends a day wandering around fields testing the location based stuff out.

    They seem like a pretty bright bunch of folks. I've been meaning to go up there at some point and have a play with one of these gadgets, but I haven't found the time yet. Anyway, apparantly, it all Just Works.
  • There are already so called "soundseeing" audio guide tours which can be downloaded to your favorite mp3 player. Museums, City tours.

    The color screen iPod can now show album art from podcasts. So I could very well imagine an audio tour which at every site shows you a picture of what is being described and then showing you an arrow or mini map of which direction to take next.

    I've tried to get Zurich tourism board interested in creating such free audio tours, but no response yet. Maybe all those tour guides
  • by Linker3000 ( 626634 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @06:33AM (#13101954) Journal
    When I walk around a stately home I don't fancy wearing headphones, I don't want to have to fiddle with buttons, and I am quite capable of looking around me and reading the catalogue or notes in the room. Staring at a small LCD screen when I am in 'the great room' seems like going to a brewery and drinking from a can!

    I also wonder what effect all the additional multimedia presentations will have on throughput - if many people start to linger to watch the material then it may cause a build up of people in certain areas.

    I can also see people bumping into each other as they focus on the screens rather than where they are going!

    Hire cost will also be a factor - what if a family is touring and mum, dad and the kids all want a look-see - are we sharing headphones? Will all the tugging and pulling give the headphones a short life - fair enough they only cost around 30p a set trade price (for generic stereo headphones), but it soon adds up.

    I'm sure this gadget will be useful for people with visual or audio impairment but the whole business of charging, cleaning, maintenance etc. for a fraction of the overall visitor base seems excessive for the ROI. Oh, and how many are going to get nicked by /. geeks (only the dishonest ones, of course!).

    I'll take the random-access guide book with beautiful pictures and descriptive text that I can take home and look at again and again at my own pace.
  • I have to say the mobile industry has been crying out for this kind of application. 3 minute pop videos and 30 sec football clips are not really what people want on their mobile device. However, media that is tailored to who they are and where they are is far more attractive. Imagine being able to chop the Blair Witch video up into segments and play it back at locations in a really scary wood - the would be fantastic. T
  • at Boston's MOFA, I used a self-guided tour thingy that seemed to be based on a cd player.

    The beauty of it was that I could wait until I was actually able to see a particular painting up close (in the very crowded gallery) before playing the audio clip associated with that painting.

    So I think you have to leave it up to the user when to play the content rather than just triggering it based on location.
  • Oxymoron (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Isnt "local tourist" an oxymoron?
  • This sounds a lot like the devices used at the Experience Music Project in Seattle, WA. They have a short piece on the technology on their website []

    Museum Exhibit Guide (MEG) Device The perfect virtual "companion" while visiting the museum, this handheld technology provides a completely customized tour of EMP. Delivering to the visitor hours of superior, high-quality audio, video, and graphic content, the MEG device represents one of many ways EMP redefines what it means to be a museum. The MEG device

  • As a master's student of museum studies and an intern who is working for a company that produces similiar devices, I have to agree with most posts: the tech isn't really new, nor is the idea, and human guides are desirable in many situations. However a digital guide provides many more possibilities of user accessibility and interpretation: information can be distributed in many languages, text, audio, video etc, this is imporatant for persons with disabilities. The content can be tailored to provide altern
  • case a tourist who doesn't speak the local language wanted to ask locals for directions. A Hungarian tourist with such a device in their hands comes along and asks you to fondle their bum, and you can give them directions to the station, which the device will translate into Hungarian for them,

They are called computers simply because computation is the only significant job that has so far been given to them.