iPod Touch Tour Update

iPod Touch Tour Home Screen

iPod Touch Tour Home Screen

It’s been a while since I posted about the iPod Touch/iPhone prototype tour that I was working on at the San Jose Museum of Art. The last time was in October of 2007. A lot has happened since then including the actual launch of the tour itself. We launched it in May of 2008 in conjunction with a tour we created for Robots: Evolution of a Cultural Icon. For the launch of the tour there were some preparations and changes.

One of the main focuses was to upgrade the wifi in the museum. We were operating with 2 networks. One was used by patrons of the cafe (which was pretty unreliable) and the other was used for exhibitions. For the upgrade we combined the two into one network and added two more access points using HP enterprise grade wireless routers.

The new set-up reaches most parts of the museum. There are a few spotty areas that we will need to focus on should we expand the use of handhelds into galleries other than our two main ones. Another issues that we’ve encountered is the lag time that occurs when you move from the gallery downstairs to the gallery upstairs. This causes a switch from one access point to another. The units pick up the new access point fine, but the lag time occurs when it switches to a different channel. It can take up to a minute for this to happen which you can image could frustrate a visitor. My request to Apple about how the iPod Touch handles channels was unfortunately not answered. Thankfully we have not had a lot of exhibitions where visitors move between access points.

Update: iPod Touch/iPhone Museum Tour from Chris Alexander on Vimeo.

When users select the Robots exhibition from the Exhibitions screen they are presented with a list of artists.

When users select the Robots exhibition from the Exhibitions screen they are presented with a list of artists.

One of the major changes that was made was to the user interface. Basically the tour is a web application similar to what you might see if you navigate to Facebook or Twitter on the iPhone. To construct it I spent a lot of time on the iphonewebdev Google Group reading threads about how to create web apps. One thing that I discovered was a javascript framework that a lot of people were using. The framework called iUI (iPhone User Interface) was developed by Joe Hewitt a developer for Facebook who was working on the iPhone version of the site. The framework mimics the page slide from side to side that the iPhone is so famous for. It also adds AJAX to the mix which helps to speed up the tour by loading only what is requested by the user and nothing extraneous. I downloaded the framework and tweaked the CSS file to make the screens that you currently see above in the video.

The artist page for this particular exhibition included a Curator's Video Label and an Artist's Video Label.

The artist page for this particular exhibition included a Curator's Video Label and an Artist's Video Label.

One other feature that I added was a feedback page.  It has not been very popular usage-wise.  There have only been about 30-40 forms collected and a lot of them are duplicate submissions.  The feature was added more as an experiment than anything else to see if it would be used and to learn from it.  I created the survey using a form creation website called Wufoo.  You can sign up on their website for a variety of different plans ranging from free to $199.99 dollars a month.  The service is great!  You sign-up, create a form and then you are given a snippet of code to embed the form on your site.  You can also adjust the appearance of the form through customized CSS.  While the form works effectively on the iPods, there are some issues with customizing the CSS for it.  There was another iPhone optimized solution that I came a month or two ago which I forgot to bookmark and I have been feverishly trying to find it again.  If I do find it I will post it here.

There are many other updates that I have been trying to experiment with. I will try and share my findings once I have implemented or tested.  I hope to make a post soon about WiFi delivery via web browser vs. locally stored data.

6 Responses to "iPod Touch Tour Update"

  1. Jan Klink

    I tried the tour on my ipod touch from the Netherlands. The first video stopped after 10 seconds. The next videos did not run and gave the message ‘film stucture not supported’

  2. Chris

    Jan, thanks so much for your comment. I’ve never really run into the problems that you discuss. Obviously the tour depends heavily on a strong WiFi connection. Were you somewhere that had one? Additionally which videos specifically were you viewing so that I can see if somehow they have become corrupt?

  3. Kate

    Hi Chris,

    I’m working on a survey for an iPhone tour that we will be introducing at the Portland Art Museum in November. I will definitely check out Wufoo, but was also wondering if you had tried iPoll by surveygizmo. Would you be able to share more about the results you got from the survey and what kinds of questions you chose to ask? I really appreciate all the information you have given here. Thank you!


  4. Chris

    Hi Kate.

    Thanks for posting a comment to my site. I’m always excited to see people comment.

    I’ve been using Wufoo because I was familiar with it. I don’t necessarily think that it is the best option and have been wanting to change it to http://www.havasec.com. They make feedback forms specifically for mobile. You should definitely check them out. I’ll definitely check out iPoll as well.

    You can access our form results by going to http://sjma.wufoo.com/reports/sjma-ipod-touch-tour-feedback/. Even though the form has been available for a while now there has not been a lot of feedback collected, but it does have some pretty good info in it.

    I’d love to hear more about your tour if you have a chance to share. Is it accessible outside the museum?

  5. Kate

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for your response!

    Spotlight mobile is working with PAM and the de Young to create an iPhone app that I believe will be available to other institutions in the future. Visitors will be able to download the app to their own device or borrow an iPod touch from the museum. Unlike your tour, we will only have Wifi at our two entrances.

    The foundation of our content at PAM will be SmartHistory videos made for our permanent collection. If you haven’t already, you should check out http://smarthistory.org. Right now, we have ten of those videos on our website at http://portlandartmuseum.org/multimedia/permanent/. I am still pretty new to this project, but I will try my best to answer any more questions you might have.

  6. Chris


    Thanks so much for the info! I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes out for it!

Leave a Reply