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Lost in Sound: Touching History at the Ara Pacis Museum

March 11, 2017

A visitor on the Art for the Blind tour at the Ara Pacis Museum

Bringing art to life for blind museum visitors

A pioneering experience for blind visitors at one of Rome’s most prestigious public museums shows the possibilities of combining the latest technology with the greatest art.

The Art for the Blind access tour has just opened at Rome’s Ara Pacis Museum. It has been co-created by Antenna International and partially sighted consultants from Italian tech specialists, Tooteko.

Positioning technology allows independent exploration, while exhibits are brought to life using multisensory content, such as evocative audio descriptions and tactile elements.

What technology does it use?
The tour uses the latest in smart, wearable rings, portable technology and 3D printing. Software is also key, with iPad minis installed with an app designed for visually impaired users.

How does it work?
At the start of the tour, blind and partially sighted people receive three items.

  1. A high-tech, smart, wearable ring
  2. An A4, 3D thermoform map
  3. An iPad mini attached to headphones

Hi-tech smart ring which detects the museum exhibit tags

The 3D map that guides blind visitors around exhibits

Tags attached to the exhibits trigger experiences

As they walk around, users can touch the ring to tags on exhibits. This wirelessly connects their iPad to sensors at the base of works, triggering different experiences in six main areas of the museum.

For instance, users have the opportunity to feel details of the famous floral frieze of the Ara Pacis. And at the busts of Augustus’ family, visitors can touch the heads and each ‘speaks’ to them in character.

How have we made sure it meets the needs of our audience?
The multisensory tour and the audioguide descriptions were co-created with the help of two key consultants at Tooteko. Anna Spina is partially sighted and Deborah Tramentozzi is blind and an expert on issues affecting blind people. Their insights were fundamental in making the tour and the technology both usable and immersive.

On the last stop of the tour, visitors can touch the floral frieze

Fabio D’Agnano, CTO at Tooteko comments:

“To us, it was important to combine touch and hearing and allow an independent and rich experience for the visually impaired. We wanted to add real innovation into museum accessibility, and the historic Museo dell’Ara Pacis was the perfect environment for it.”

Paola Spataro, Head of Digital Media, Italy for Antenna International adds: “Technological advances, both big and small, are turning museum tours across the world into unforgettable experiences. The work we’ve done in Rome is a great example of what can be achieved. There are so many innovations out there which can enrich and enliven what museums are creating, and I’m excited to see where even the next twelve months will take the industry.”

The story of each person is revealed when the audio label is activated

To find out more about the cutting-edge technology used in the Art for the Blind access tour or set up a meeting, get in touch here.

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We make audio tours, mobile apps, multimedia guides, podcasts, interactives, and superior story-driven content for the museum and cultural sector.

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