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A review of an olympic year for digital interpretation

Posted on December 17th, by admin in Tales and musings. No Comments

As yet another year draws to a close we take a look back at 2012 and reflect on what progress has been made in digital interpretation.

Social Media

We began the year with a cold and crisp week in Cornwall walking and planning seven new audio trails for the Cornish World Heritage Site team. The photos we took prompted us to set up several Pinterest boards. Pinterest has been adopted by a growing number of interpreters this year to showcase work, plan exhibitions and garner visitor feedback, which has helped it take its place among the Social Media elite in 2012.

Mobile apps

Social Media has been at the heart of the latest version of our ‘Welcome to‘ app software. The modular app engine has been designed to provide a flexible solution for a wide range of clients. We’ve designed a new navigation menu and added greater interactivity to the app. Our badges and rewards plugin, linked to Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare, was a key reason why Norwich chose us to build their app. This year we’ve also released apps on behalf of the National Trust and Rhonnda Cynon Taf, but our most successful app of the year has been the ‘Official Yorkshire Dales National Park’ app which recorded over 8000 downloads in two weeks when we launched the latest version in July.

Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) has seen a rise in popularity this year, but it still is in the hands of early adopters. This technology, still very much in its infancy, holds great potential for heritage interpretation. AR is the process by which digital content is layered over the viewfinder of a smarthone or tablet. Imagine using your smartphone as a portal to see how a castle once looked?

As I type we are putting the final touches to our very exciting AR ‘Mission: Butterfly’ app on behalf of Caerphilly Borough Council. The app uses GPS to trigger 15 hotspots on a nature reserve where different ‘virtual’ species can be caught at each under gameplay conditions. Once ‘caught’ the butterflies are transferred to a collection jar where users can learn more about the habitat and habits of each species. Look out for its release early in 2013. If you cannot wait take a look at the demo promo video we have been working on.

QR Codes

Unless you have been walking around with your eyes closed this year then you will almost certainly have seen the QR code – invented by Toyota nearly 20 years ago to track vehicle parts during the manufacturing process – adorning leaflets, magazines, posters and billboards. The 2D black and white barcode enables direct access to web-based content. Unfortunately, because the QR codes are free to download they have been abused by marketing folk who appear to have little thought for the user experience. It is essential that if you are using QR codes for your project then please follow the following four principles to ‘crack the CODE’:

  • – Create excitement and/or an irresistible offer that leaves them in no doubt as to why the should scan the code
  • – Optimise your content so it can be viewed properly on a mobile device – this is what people use to scan the code so there is no point linking to a slow-loading desktop site
  • – Delight your customer with an immediate pay-off e.g. discount, fascinating fact, competition, video or audio clip
  • – Educate yourself. Track each campaign and study the effectiveness of different calls to action

Montgomery Canal smartphone trail waymark disc



Our smartphone trail along the Montgomery Canal, on behalf of the Canal and River Trust (formerly British Waterways), went live this year and uses waymark discs printed with QR codes to link to multimedia content. We also embedded something called NFC into each disc.

The Olympics were keen adopters of this technology by integrating ‘wave and pay‘ purchases at every venue, something Transport for London have been doing on buses and the underground for some time in the shape of Oyster Cards. However Apple’s refusal thus far to include this technology into its devices has perhaps slowed its adoption by 2 years, but the word on street (the same word that has been floating around for two years) is that the next iPhone will have NFC. Will 2013 be its year?

A golden era

The Olympics weren’t the only reason to celebrate this year. James Bond and the Rolling Stones shared their 50th anniversary with Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and we produced a podcast to celebrate this landmark for the group once known as the Derbyshire Naturalists’ Trust. They soon changed their name when they kept being confused with a completely different set of people who shared a love of nature but usually with far fewer clothes!

Audio Trails

And of course we couldn’t sign off without mentioning the concept we developed in 2005. The Cornwall audio trails were joined by further ones in North East Derbyshire (now totaling 18), South East London, Rhondda Cynon Taf, the National Trust’s Morden Hall Park and a project with Staffordshire Wildlife Trust working with schools to produce audio trails for their local nature reserves.

Working with schools will play an increasingly important role for us in 2013 now we have our Learning Co-ordinator in place. Ruth’s first project will be on behalf of the Canal and River Trust as she devises an education pack for the Lune Canal.

2013 looks like being a very exciting year for our sector.

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