NFC enables artists to add rich media to exhibits
By Ryan Clary, Contributing Editor, AVISIAN Publications
Le Centre Pompidou, Paris’s goliath, industrial-chic contemporary art gallery, is looking to shake up the museum experience for Generation Z. By next year, visitors to Pompidou’s planned Teen Gallery, as well as the old city center of Nice, will be using smart phones to interact with works of art, learn about historical sites, and even leave comments about the attractions and share relevant media in a social network setting, à la Facebook or Twitter.
The concept, called Smart Muse, revolves around Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. When approaching a work of art or historical site, users pass an NFC-enabled handset over a corresponding contactless smart card tag and voilà–information regarding the point of interest automatically pops up on the tourist’s phone complete with video and audio.
Smart Muse uses 13.56 MHz contactless smart card tags with unique ID numbers that when read by a visitor’s NFC-enabled handset, access detailed information online. The Paris-based company Connecthings hosts the server and provide the content-management software for the project.
The purpose of Smart Muse, as explained by Mauricio Estrada Muñoz, project manager of the Youth Program at Le Centre Pompidou, is threefold–education, communication and interaction.
First and foremost, the system is designed to give teens a better understanding of the artwork than a static sign tacked to the wall can provide. It does this with rich materials and media–cell phones and YouTube videos–that teens have come to expect. Passing a phone over a tag might launch a video interview on the user’s handset where the artist explains the meaning of the work. Following the video clip, the system might present a question such as, “do you agree with the artist’s views, yes or no?”
Based on the response, another video could be launched for the user’s consideration. In this way, Smart Muse keeps the viewer engaged with the artwork, staving off the “art-overload-zone-out” state that anyone who has spent more than a couple hours in a museum has likely experienced.
On the communication front, Smart Muse leverages social network sites–predominantly Facebook–to help revive and foster interest in contemporary art in the youth as a whole. It helps to “bridge the gap between the art world and digital practices,” says Muñoz.
Smart Muse does this in a number of ways. When a visitor begins a tour of the Pompidou’s Teen Gallery, his or her Facebook status is automatically updated to say that they have entered the museum.
Users can post to their Facebook or Twitter accounts different videos, audio or any other media that pop up on their phones during the course of their visit. This serves to provoke conversation about art with their online friends. NFC-enabled posters for upcoming events and new exhibits will be on display throughout the gallery and visitors can RSVP by tapping their phones to the tag.
Interactive works of art
Artists can incorporate Smart Muse’s NFC technology into the work of art itself. For example, the artist can program the tag to play a certain tone or sound bite on the viewer’s phone, adding an additional dimension to the experience of viewing the piece. Visitors can even use the phones to send comments directly to museum management, or even to the artist, in a sort of digital guestbook or suggestion box.
The inaugural exhibit at the Teen Gallery will house art inspired by the streets and address its impact on the contemporary art community. Among contemporary works by Jean Faucheur, Florent Lamoureux and Elsa Mazeau, the exhibit will feature a human beat box workshop that will examine the practice’s origins and teach visitors how to do it themselves.
Heading south to Nice
Nice is also deploying Smart Muse as a high-tech tourist aid for the city’s historic old town. Visitors can borrow NFC-equipped handsets from tourist centers to access information from NFC tags and 2D barcodes affixed to sign posts at museums, churches and historical monuments. The tour is designed to lead a visitor from tag to tag and lasts about one hour.
Nice’s tourists will be able to share media online through social networking sites and receive information on various tourist services including stores, restaurants, hotels and events. According to Connecthings’ founder Leatitia Gazel-Anthoine, bus stops in the old town will also be equipped with tags to provide tourists with information on bus routes and schedules.
Both projects are being developed through a multi-million Euro grant from France’s Ministry of Economy, Industry and Employment, which has launched thirteen pilots focused on NFC and contactless technology.