Israel’s ‘museum-friendly’ app maker does the Guggenheim

The guiding force that teaches your smartphone how to show you around museums and other sites wins praise from NYC’s mayor

The Guggenheim app (Photo credit: Guggenheim Museum)
The Guggenheim app (Photo credit: Guggenheim Museum)

Museums have benefited quietly but enormously from the smartphone revolution with apps guiding visitors through exhibits. These apps can save museums money and hassle by delivering information directly to visitors, enabling them to post fewer docents on the floor to answer questions.

Just as big a beneficiary has been an Israeli company called Espro Acoustiguide Group, a Kfar Saba-based company that supplies the technology for apps in use in hundreds of museums, national parks, zoos, and city tours around the world. Espro Acoustiguide “interprets” information about a venue for easy and interesting digestion depending on the audience — families, teens, adults, researchers, foreign visitors, groups, individuals, etc. – producing content for use on iPhone or Android apps, websites, audio players, tablets, and more.

Espro Acoustiguide’s latest offering, debuting to kudos last month, is an app for the Guggenheim Museum in New York City that provides a guided tour and information for an exhibit on the artist James Turrell, as well as other exhibitions at the museum. The interactive app presents an array of content, including multimedia guides to current and past exhibitions; interviews with artists, curators, and exhibition designers; access to more than 1,200 works in the permanent collection; and explorations of the museum’s iconic building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

You don’t have to be at the museum to use it, by the way; anyone with an iPhone or Android device can download it for free, thanks to the largesse of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose Bloomberg Philanthropies is footing the bill for development of the app.

The mayor is very pleased with the results.

“The Guggenheim app will provide visitors with an enhanced experience before, during and after their time at the museum,” Bloomberg wrote in a blog post. “Users can download information on exhibits using the app – all before even walking in the door. Once inside, a detailed floor map will ensure museum-goers don’t get lost, while multimedia tours provide in-depth looks at the museum’s collection and at new special exhibitions.”

“Technology has the power to address the two main challenges facing museum guests — navigation and access to information about exhibits,” Bloomberg added. “That’s why we are proud to support the Guggenheim and other leading institutions as they enhance the visitor experience and expand access through innovative apps and devices that will help connect guests to art.”

Besides the Guggenheim app, Bloomberg will be sponsoring apps for New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, New York Botanical Garden, and the Museum of Modern Art, a project that will cost him $15 million over the next few years.

After the success of the Guggenheim app, chances are that those development apps will also go to Espro Acoustiguide, which, with nine offices worldwide, ia actually a conglomerate of sorts. The code for the app was written by developers at a Canadian subsidiary of subsidiary, Tristan Interactive, which the Israeli company acquired last April. The two companies first partnered in 2011 to launch the Musée du Louvre’s official app, recently ranked by the UK Guardian as one of the best apps for a museum. They later developed MCA Insight for the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, an app that includes innovative indoor positioning technology offering visitors access to information on nearby artwork based on their location within the museum.

“To us, access doesn’t stop once people walk in the door,” wrote Bloomberg of the Guggenheim app. “Getting into the museum doesn’t mean anything if you can’t find your way around or learn more about the exhibitions on view. That’s why this initiative is so important.”

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