The New Media Consortium have, for the first time this year, released a Horizon Report that specifically focuses on museum education and interpretation – 2010 Horizon Report: Museum Edition. The report outlines 6 key technologies predicted to influence museum education and interpretation over the next five years.
These technologies are:
• The near-term horizon (next 12 months): mobiles and social networks.
• The second-term horizon (2-3 years): augmented reality and location-based services.
• The far-term horizon (4-5 years): gesture-based computing and the semantic web.
There appears to be a strong link between the more immediate use of mobiles and social networks with the emergence of more augmented reality and location-based services primarily accessed from mobiles. The key point about mobile technology was that users are expecting to be able to use the devices they have in their pocket wherever they are. The report also discussed challenges faced by museums and there are some other challenges I can see as well.
One of the main challenges is the allocation of funding and resources. I am sure all museums want to provide the enhanced learning experience this technology can offer to all our visitors. However, finding funding for a non revenue-raising area is always going to be a challenge. I also wonder, as someone who works specifically with school students, how many students to have internet-capable mobiles available? And how quickly will those statistics change?
Despite the challenges, the potential offered by these technologies is quite staggering. The ability it gives museums to engage visitors in new and interactive ways, provide them with profound experiences and the opportunity to share these with their networks, create wonderment and awe, and show some of the ‘real’ history that can be missed, is very exciting. I am looking forward to my travels next year, where I can visit some institutions that are at the forefront of creative use of theses technologies.