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Friday, 30 August, 2002, 09:45 GMT 10:45 UK
Tate tests wireless tour guides
The wireless project at the Tate
The computer comes in a rugged case

Wireless networking technology could provide visitors to art galleries with a more interactive experience, if a trial project at Tate Modern in London is a success.

The gallery has launched a pilot scheme which allows users to access a multimedia tour of the exhibitions on handheld computers.

Visitors are given a Pocket PC which uses a wireless network to track where they are in the gallery and deliver them an instant visual guide to the exhibits.

If the trial, being offered free to enthusiastic visitors, is a success, the multimedia tours could be offered alongside the existing audio tours.

Information on hand

Tate Modern already provides audio tours for visitors via handheld devices that look like oversized cordless telephones.


The pilot will provide invaluable information on the practical application of these technologies for use by other cultural and visitor attractions

Andrew Nugée, Antenna Audio
The multimedia tour takes that a stage further.

It uses a Compaq iPaq handheld PC, which has been loaded into a rugged black and red case and is carried on a strap that goes round the neck.

You also get a set of headphones so you do not disturb other visitors. The only other sign of activity is the two blinking green lights of the wireless network card that sticks out of the top of the device.

Covering the Still Life/Object/Real Life suite of galleries, the pilot multimedia tour lasts about 45 minutes.

When you enter a gallery room, the hi-tech guide flashes to indicate that more information is available. You can then click for more information.

That could be a section of video describing the work or talking about aspects of it, or it could be a page of text, giving further information about the artist.

Vote and comment

Artists who have contributed include Damien Hirst, talking about his work Pharmacy, Jake and Dinos Chapman who provide a comic heavy breathing soundtrack for their sculpture about sex and Frank Auerbach, who allowed the creators of the multimedia service to interview two of his sitters about the experience of being painted.

Andrew Nugée of Antenna Audio, which has helped develop the trial, said: "The multimedia tour will enhance Tate Modern's profile as a challenging and experimental museum working continuously to redefine art interpretation and education.

"The pilot will provide invaluable information on the practical application of these technologies for use by other cultural and visitor attractions around the world."

The multimedia tour carries a map which tracks your location, should you get lost, and you can request more information by e-mail to your home address.

The pilot scheme is surveying users to assess whether they would want to use the system to vote and comment on the works they see, as well as communicate using the handhelds as they go round the gallery.

See also:

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