Museum at Your Fingertips
A program to test the educational capabilities of telepresence robots in museums
San Diego Air & Space Museum
Concept, Design, Development
Institute of Museum and Library Services Sparks! Grant
The intellectual, social, and emotional benefits of museum learning are well documented: according to numerous studies, museum education has the ability to motivate and excite learners of all ages while also providing them with new insights and experiences. Access to and interaction with museums’ artifacts and immersive exhibitions provide a uniquely positive environment to foster learning—particularly for young students. But what about learners who are unable to visit a museum? What about underserved children whose school is unable to afford the transportation, or students with physical or mental special needs that make museum visits challenging? BPOC aims to address these questions through Museum at Your Fingertips, a new learning tool that will bring the museum directly to the classroom.
Museum at Your Fingertips is an experimental project to test the ability of the BeamPro, by Suitable Technologies to empower students to “visit” the San Diego Air and Space Museum (SDASM) in real-time through a device that interacts with the museum directly from the classroom. The device, the BeamPro by Suitable Technologies, enables students to engage with exhibits through a fully interactive tool that moves, sees, and speaks on command.
The project builds off the Balboa Park 2015 Public WiFi expansion, which brings fast, free Internet access to virtually all locations in the Park. The device is connected on the Park’s free WiFi. As part of these virtual “tours” of SDASM, a docent will guide the Beam through the museum and highlight ten points of interest. BPOC and SDASM have developed a companion website that runs alongside the Beam interface and pushes supplemental content to users’ screens to enhance the online educational experience. The docent can trigger supplemental photos and videos and update the website map to show students where they are in the museum.
BPOC and SDASM tested Beam tours with five schools. At each step of the way, BPOC asked for feedback from educators. The general consensus was that, while virtual tours cannot take the place of actual museum visit, they are a viable option when an in-person visit is not possible. A tour like this also has advantages for students studying technology and robots. Students' "oohs" and "ahhs" showed that there is something unique about of visiting a museum through a moving robot. BPOC is looking into ways to extend the life of this project and extend museum access to classrooms with limited resources or special needs.