IDEA - Museum Positioning System

Recent talk about the capabilities of the new iphone gps system have me thinking about new mobile learning spaces. Of course, gps enabled phones existed for a little while now, but the iphone has certainly grabbed the attention on this technology. The specifics of the recent debate are whether or not the iphone gps system is capable of “turn by turn” navigation – giving directions, say, in a car. The consensus seems to be that this will be possible through the new third-party applications ( see quotes from apple product head, Greg Joswiak).

So anyway, I’m thinking… what about a turn by turn MPS – Museum Positioning System? I could imagine an experience something resembling the guided audio tours only far more interactive and reactive to users’ actions. If I decide to veer off course, or take an alternate route through the museum floor (say to avoid a crowded exhibit), then the guidance would adjust accordingly. Just as GPS car systems let you choose highway or side-street preferences, one could select different routes linking exhibits together.

I doubt that gps would be accurate enough, by itself, for this type of use, but the opportunity to develop such an application for an iphone certainly is intriguing.



  1. Personally, I would love to use something like this at museum and even in interesting cities like London or Paris.

    Question: Will the iPhone GPS work inside a building? I haven't yet used iPhone GPS so I don't know the answer.

    BJ Fogg

  2. I think that this is an excellent idea and should be implemented. I've always thought that audioguides in museums are a good idea, but I never use them, and it is because, probably like many people, I don't like to go through a museum in a prescribed, pre-organized way, but rather ad libitum. The idea of being able to get the information in response to my own self-generated trajectory is appealing. I think that you should work on this and, I hope make a lot of money from it!

  3. Hi Rolf,

    I agree with these other guys that it'd be a cool way to explore a museum. Maybe there could even be some sort of persistent state that you accumulate as you wander. Then you could do things like recommend other places to see ("if you liked this and this exhibit, then you might like this").

    Is this only going to be available for people with iPhones? Do you think iPhone/GPS is the right technology here? I wonder if you couldn't do something simpler with a smaller handset and Bluetooth stations around the museum...

    No Doug and Cynthia this time, but I'm sure they wish they could be commenting too.

  4. Thanks for the comments!

    BJ - I agree, I think the scale of something like this would be nice in a city.

    Jeremy - I'm glad you like the idea. I'd love it if you checked back in so I can hear more of your thoughts.

    Danny - Good point. A social element could be much more interesting. I could imagine being at a zoo or in some non-static learning space - maybe a crowd is forming at the Elephant Habitat because they're doing something entertaining. It would be nice to be aware of what other visitors are doing in real time (avoid a traffic jam?). As far as the iPhone/GPS technology. I think you're right, it might not be appropriate for a small scale museum. I was just thinking about other implications for "turn by turn navigation on the iphone" . That said, I do think there might be some fun things that one could do with it.

  5. Hey All,

    Glad to see other people thinking about interactive tours. I have been working on developing a tour for the nonprofit I consult: the Mural Music & Arts Project. We have over 30 murals throughout the Bay Area and we are exploring different ways leverage social media and mobile devices to unlock all the meaning in our public art.

    Think about all the thousands of people that pass murals that have layers of social capital, why not a CPM for public art. Or better yet, a way of know who actually is internalizing the artwork using projects like http://www.yellowarrow.org/.

    I also think it would be amazing to have your digital profile forever associated with a public art legacy. Please let me know if you want to discuss further or have other cool ideas. Great stuff Rolf!

  6. Hi,
    My roommate tested his iPhone GPS and it works inside our apartment, but we're on the 5th floor so we'll have to try it in some other locations for you. More to come.

  7. Such a great blog, positioning technology becomes popular because it is able to find the location inside the buildings. A Wireless Indoor Positioning System (IPS) is a network of devices used to locate people or objects where GPS and other satellite technologies lack precision or fail entirely, such as inside multistory buildings, airports, parking garages, and underground locations.