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Giving art a voice with an artificial intelligence audio guide

It is 64 years since the first museum audio guide was introduced by the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Since then they have evolved to become an integral part of the museum experience, augmenting the visit with information that can give the visitor a deeper appreciation of an artwork or historic context and bring subjects to life through experiential story telling.

As part of the celebrations of its 100 years in Brazil, IBM decided to make this experience of knowledge even more interactive. In partnership with the Pinacoteca of São Paulo, the company used the cognitive power of it’s Watson to allow people to talk to the works.

Last week IBM Brazil announced the ‘A Voz da Arte’ project at the Pinacoteca of São Paulo using it’s IBM Watson artificial intelligence platform to make the visit to the museum a more interactive experience.

Through a mobile application Watson gives a voice to seven works of art from the Pinacoteca of São Paulo collection, with technology that is capable of answering questions from visitors.

artificial intelligence museum

Conversational scope is limited only by the visitors imagination, with Watson being capable of fielding questions ranging from historical and technical facts through to the piece’s relation to contemporary events..

Unlike other audio tours, Watson doesn’t use pre-prepared audio clips, but instead uses a cognitive chatbot to answers the questions in real time using information from the IBM Bluemix cloud platform.

In all, Watson answers questions about seven works from the Pinacoteca of São Paulo collection, they are: Mestizo, by Cândido Portinari (1934); Saudade, by Almeida Junior (1899); Ventania, by Antonio Parreiras (1888); São Paulo, by Tarsila do Amaral (1924); The Pig, by Nelson Leirner (1967); Bananal, by Lasar Segall (1927); And Lindonéia, the suburb’s Gioconda, by Rubens Gerchman (1966).

The system was developed by IBM Brazil and trained in partnership with curators of the Pinacoteca.”We want the visitor to try out a new way of going to the museum, interacting with the art pieces and asking questions in real time. The works that we select are interesting in numerous ways and to talk to them is a stimulating way of learning.

The ultimate goal is for people to end the visit by understanding a bit more about art and with the experience that the museum is fun, “says Fabiana Galetol, External Communications Executive at IBM Brazil.

“In such a technological world, museums could not be left behind. The Pinacoteca is always reinventing itself and creating strategies to speak with its audiences. The partnership between Pina and IBM represents this effort, which has resulted in an unprecedented, interactive and accessible action, “said Paulo Vicelli, director of institutional relations at the Pinacoteca of São Paulo.

Watch the video of the ‘A Voz da Arte’ project that was designed by IBM Brasil together with Ogilvy and the teams of the Pinacoteca:

While not many museums have the resources of IBM to spend six months developing a guide of this kind, this likely points to the future of museum audio guides. A future where museums use artificial intelligence can help deliver a more personalised experience for visitors be that in the gallery or when visiting virtually.

About the author – Jim Richardson

Jim Richardson is the founder of MuseumNext. He has worked as a consultant to the museum sector for more than twenty years advising on technology and leadership. Jim now splits his time between running innovation consultancy for museums and leading our museum conferences around the globe.

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