Prophets innovates with iBeacon technology
Bring Rubens back to life
Prophets has created a prototype with iBeacon technology in the Rubens House in Antwerp. We´re breathing new life into the works of Rubens via a mobile application on smartphone and tablet. Visitors use cutting-edge technology to interact with classical art.
A ´Beacon´ is a physical object that is hung in a room, e.g. in a store or a museum. The Beacon is wireless: it is battery-powered and uses the most recent Bluetooth technology. Via Apple´s iBeacon technology, a beacon sends a ´push´ message to the iPhone or iPad of people passing by. For example: “the clothes on this shelf are on sale.” Or: “discover the painted-over drawing that hides beneath this work of art.” The technology also works for smartphones and tablets with Android.
If you wish to receive messages via iBeacon in a museum or store, you have to download the app of the museum or the brand. With iBeacon, you can pinpoint the position of people indoors and send them a push message to interact with the environment. The programmer defines how close someone must come to a beacon in order to receive the message. You can hang several iBeacons in a single space and link a specific message or interaction to each.
iBeacon system in the Rubens House
Apple unveiled iBeacon at the end of 2013, together with the new iPhones and iPad, and Prophets immediately recognised the technology´s potential. Earlier, Prophets had worked out a digital strategy for the Antwerp museums, paying a great deal of attention to the role of mobile devices during museum visits. In The Rubens House we found an enthusiastic partner eager to experiment with iBeacon. Prophets studied how it could breathe new life into the classical works of painter Peter Paul Rubens via innovative technology.
Prophets built a mobile application that uses iBeacon and installed the Beacons from producer Estimote in The Rubens House. The installation of wireless Beacons requires absolutely no physical intervention in the structure of this historical house. The Beacons may be invisible, hidden beneath a table or behind a cabinet. We worked out four ´use cases´ in a temporary system, and this mobile prototype enabled us to test the functioning of the Beacons and the iBeacon technology in a real situation with real users. This gave us the knowledge we needed in order to create a permanent system.
a) In the inner courtyard you discover the history of the porchway. You start from a painted image from the 16th century to a photo from the beginning of the 19th century and pictures from before and after the restoration.
b) Various paintings show you portraits of Rubens´ wives and children. At each work you are asked to place the family member in the right place in the family tree.
c) From a single overview work you go looking for the location of the depicted paintings and images. If you find the right image, the accompanying iBeacon sends you a confirmation.
d) All of the iBeacons in the museum together form an indoor GPS system, with which you can follow a thematic route through the Rubens House.
e) At different paintings you can look at an x-ray scan, zoom in on details, or be asked to answer questions.
iBeacon technology: the next steps
Prophets and Musea Antwerpen are studying the possibilities offered by the iBeacon technology for all of the different Antwerp museums. The application offers many advantages: you can offer individual guided tours by theme, make a museum visit more interactive for children, and display extra information or art works that are not located in the museum. The role of iBeacon is being incorporated into the development of a new mobile application for the Antwerp Museums.
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