Thursday, April 16, 2015

Exploring the Wearable Future, Part II

Exploring the Wearable Future, Part II

I hope you enjoyed Tuesday’s preview of the mock Museum of the Future CFM is staging in MuseumExpo at the annual meeting week after next. Neal Stimler, an early adopter of Google Glass, will be helping me with the demonstration. In today’s post he contributes some thoughts and resources to prime your thinking. During the meeting, look for hashtag #cfmwearables15 on Twitter to follow the conversation generated by the Museum of the Future, and contribute your thoughts.

(Neal asked me to include the disclaimer that his remarks are his personal views, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Also, please note any mention of a specific company, product or service is not a paid endorsement, but is provided for your enjoyment, learning and reference.) 

Neal Stimler & Google Glass at the Bard Graduate Center
Photo: Raffi Asdourian
Greetings friends and followers of the Center for the Future of Museums! I’m Neal Stimler, Digital Asset Specialist at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I forecast trends, lead digitization efforts and manage special initiatives. I also explore wearable technologies like Google Glass and the Moto360 smartwatch. I’m especially interested to study how museum collections and content are experienced with wearable technologies as well as how wearables can improve customer service for museum constituents.

I’m delighted to be joining Elizabeth Merritt, GuidiGo and other collaborators for the Center for the Future of Museums’ MuseumExpo experience at the 2015 Annual Meeting. As Elizabeth mentioned in her recent post on April 14, 2015, I was one of the first people in the cultural heritage and museum sectors to experiment with Google Glass as a Google Glass Explorer and an #ifIhadglass winner. I have traveled in the United States and Europe, notably in Denmark and Italy, sharing Google Glass and the Moto360 with museum and technology professionals. I enjoy facilitating people’s introductions and learning experiences with wearable technologies as they consider the applications of these tools in daily life and their professions.

I join Elizabeth in inviting you to visit the special Google Glass demo in The Museum of The Future in MuseumExpo. Try Google Glass and the other wearable devices we will have on hand for yourself and share your experiences on Twitter. I’ll be at the MuseumExpo to answer your questions about wearables and help you become more comfortable navigating these devices. Please feel free to dialogue with me before, during and after the 2015 American Alliance of Museums Annual Meeting on Twitter @nealstimler.

Five Themes on Wearables

Here are five themes on wearables for your consideration prior to MuseumExpo experience at the 2015 Annual Meeting.

1. BYOD Mobile Morphs to Wearable:

The New Media Consortium Horizon Report: 2013 Museum Edition identified and the 2015 report wiki further addresses BYOD, or “Bring Your Own Device,” as a continued and hastening trend for museums.

Wearables devices are now part of the BYOD paradigm that require further consideration from museums.  Wearables as BYOD devices in museums necessitate that museums: 1. Re-examine media making and recording policies to address contemporary practices including body worn, heads-up and wrist devices for museum constituents and staff. 2. Provide technical infrastructure, such as open WiFi and free charging stations, for museum constituents onsite so that they may continue to interact with personal and museum content. 3. Shift design paradigms and workflows to serve museum content for a mobile and wearable platforms first to maximize opportunity for engagement and reach onsite and offsite.

I encourage you read the full New Media Consortium Report: 2015 Edition which will cover more recent perspectives and timelines for BYOD when it’s available. There will also be a session at the 2015 American Alliance of Museums Annual Meeting on the report.

2. Seek To Understand Rather Than Ban:

It will be important for museums to take an active rather than reactive approach to wearable technologies. As institutions dedicated to aesthetic appreciation, creativity, discernment, and learning, experimentation with wearable technologies is aligned with museums’ missions. With collections that document human ingenuity, programs that teach critical thinking and technical skills and staff whose research offers new scholarly insights, museums are optimal platforms to explore wearable technologies. It is through careful and mindful study of wearable technologies in dialogue museums that we may come to better understand them.

Pivotal to museums being able to understand wearable technologies is supporting efforts like the MuseumExpo, where museum professionals can come together to demonstrate and try these technologies. Museums that have access to wearable technologies play a vital role in leading these efforts by collaboratively sharing their expertise and resources with the broader community of professionals.

3. Connected and Customized Customer Service:

Applications on mobile devices connect individuals to the content they care about and enable them to facilitate interactions with products and services they value. Like mobile devices, wearable technologies will further integrate into the fabric of customers’ daily lives. Museums have an opportunity to better serve constituents’ needs through responsiveness via wearable technologies.

While this may come through museums own applications, it is likely that museums can address business on wearable devices in partnership with extant and popular third party applications who have the development capacity and resources to more quickly adapt to meet customer needs. By being where users already are, museums can more readily adapt to constituents’ preferences and provide customer service that meets contemporary expectations. Museum constituents must be able to continue their social and transactional activities before, during and after they cross the onsite threshold and in offsite interactions.

Wearable technologies ought to be considered not only as the next generation of multimedia guides, but moreover as essential tools for maintaining customer relations, building new agile patronage models and fulfilling essential services including navigation, reservations and ticketing. The relationship between a museum and constituent with wearable devices is an intimate and embodied one, which requires both attentiveness to a superb customer experience and a sensitivity to aesthetic and design concerns. Customers as well will want to customize their museum experience with wearables to suit their preferred applications, devices and platforms.

4. Open Access Fosters Creative Potential:

Museums can foster creative potential by opening access to data and assets and thereby build an ecosystem of content for wearable devices. This includes revising rights policies towards open access when possible, building technical infrastructure and delivery mechanisms so that commercial developers and artists have the resources needed to make applications for wearable devices. Barriers to access mean that developers and artists will go elsewhere for content sources when producing commercial and creative projects. Museum data and assets can be dynamic resources for the making of new products, services and interconnected cultural experiences. Opening access to data and assets is key, but so too is nurturing an engaged community of practice around these resources through the work of museum media labs and maker spaces.

With mobile and wearable devices, museums benefit by having their data and content linked and spread across platforms far beyond their own institutional bases. The museum, its collections and content, is not bound by walls but is an active part of constituents’ everyday experiences at a glance anywhere and anytime with wearables. Artists, many of whom adopted mobile as an interactive canvas for cultural production, will turn to wearable devices as well to communicate their expressions of the world.

5. Art of Wearables, Wearables As Art:

The Cooper Hewitt has an iPhone in its collection and currently on display in its revitalized galleries. It is important for museums to learn about the emulation, interaction and preservation of mobile as it morphs to wearable technologies now, so that museums can be good stewards to collections in the present and future. Wearable technologies will join the grounds of the past that served as supports for artistic communication and expression. The histories of mobile and wearable technologies are part of the histories of art, design, fashion and graphics.

Mobile and wearable devices are tools we use to design daily networked life. Wearable devices, like museums, are tools for consuming and producing contemporary culture. Museums and wearable technologies are at the nexus of a reality that is unified aesthetically and humanistically with the digital and physical. This is Digital Monism.

Five Wearable Technology News Sources

Sources are listed alphabetically.



We Are Wareables

Wearable Technology Conference and Expo

Wearable Technologies

Five Mobile Applications for Museum Professionals

The applications listed below are available on Android and/or iOS. Some already provide integration with AndroidWear apps and notifications. Others have wearable features coming soon. The applications are listed alphabetically.


Daily Art

Field Trip

Muzei Live Wallpaper for Android

Street Art Watch Face from Google Cultural Institute

Museum Twitter Bots

Twitter mobile notifications appear on wearable devices like Google Glass and the Moto360. I’ve made a list of museum Twitter bots to follow that serve up links to objects from a variety of museum collections multiple times throughout the day. It’s one of my favorite ways to learn about museum collections every day. Most of these museum Twitter bots are made by the John Emerson, aka @backspace. The bots may not be affiliated with the institutions.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Touching Me Softly

#WearableTech #Haptics #Surgery
Follow the link in the photo caption to the associated story. You can find more glimpses of the future (and links) on CFM's Pinterest Boards.  

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Exploring the Wearable Future at the Annual Meeting

 I started organizing a demonstration of the oh-so-trendy Google Glass right after our 2014 conference (suspecting even then I’d be featuring wearable technology in TrendsWatch 2015). Then in January Google announced that they were halting public sales of Glass to focus, for now, on business applications for fields that have a specific need for heads up, hands off displays. (Medicine, for example, or engineering.)

My colleagues at AAM started acting like my dog had died. “Oh too bad,” they said. “What are you going to do now?” So they were startled when my gleeful reply was “THIS IS PERFECT!”

Google Glass at the Bard
Graduate Center Photo:
Raffi Asdourian
Because really, this is exactly the challenge museums have to deal with. How do you know when a new technology is going to catch on? How do you decide whether and when to embrace Glass, or Hololens (holographic augmented reality goggles), or Oculus Rift (virtual reality headset), or Apple Watch (smartphone-on-a-wristband)?  It’s famously difficult to forecast the rate of adoption of any given technology and even the experts get it wrong. (I bet computer technologist Ken Olsen got heartily sick of being reminded of his pronouncement in 1977 that “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.")

The decision about which new device to focus on isn’t even entirely under museums’ control. One trend we’ve seen in the past few years is the rise of BYOD—Bring Your Own Device. Rather than letting a museum provide the technology they need to access digital content, many people prefer to use their own personal digital devices (e.g., smart phone, tablet).

So what’s a museum to do? Spend time and money targeting a mainstream platform may already be passé by the time the project launches? Aim for the cutting edge of emerging tech, only to find that the chosen device never catches on?

Neal Stimler with Glass at the
Bard Graduate Center
Photo: Raffia Asdourian
There is no magic answer, but this problem—predicting which devices your audience is going to “bring”—isn’t going to go away. It will only become more complicated as we enter an era dominated by wearable technology, as devices that live on the wrist, the face, or even in the user’s body supplement or supplant hand-held devices. Market research firm IDC estimates that vendors will ship over 45.7 million devices in 2015—that’s up 133% from last year. Some projections put that figure at 126 million by 2019. (Figures from Motley Fool, which published a nice slide deck on the future of wearables.)

Hence, CFM’s Museum of the Future demonstration, because in 2020 a significant portion of museum visitors will be using wearables, and a portion of those (plug in your forecast here) will be some kind of heads up display, whether it’s Glass, Sony’s equivalent device that clips on to the user’s own glasses, BMW’s Mini Augmented Vision (which is primarily designed to interface with your car, but hey) or a device like Hololens oriented towards augmented reality.

Our mock-museum in MuseumExpo will be populated with reproductions provided by museums in Atlanta and elsewhere, with interpretive content delivered via an application created by GuidiGO, a Google Glass Certified Partner for museums. You will be able to put on Glass, try out the application and use it to spur your thinking about wearables. Come with your pen (or twitter account) at the ready, as we invite you to share your thoughts on:

  • What roles wearable technology can play in the museum of the future.
  • What wearable tech can do differently, or better, than hand-held devices.
  • Your idea for the “killer application” for Google Glass or other wearable tech in museums, for visitors or for staff.

GuidiGo for Glass tour of the
Keith Haring exhibit at the
deYoung Museum
How can you make the most of the demo? Read the chapter on wearable technology in TrendsWatch 2015 (that’s the chapter that opens on page 41 with an amazing and totally apropos “beefcake” shot). Check out Neal Stimler’s posts on “Seeing the Met through Glass". Neal is going to be on hand at the demonstration in Atlanta to share his thoughts first-hand as well—thank you, Neal. Read Barry Joseph’s thoughtful analysis of wearable tech, plotted into the Mooshme Matrix of Place-based Augmented Devices. At the meeting itself, drop by Creating Tours with Google Glass, Tuesday 1:45-3 p.m. (room B209), with staff of the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco and Antenna International. And if you have your own favorite piece of wearable technology (Narrative Clip wearable camera? Google Cardboard—an inexpensive way to experience Oculus Rift-like virtual reality?) Please bring it to Atlanta and be ready to share!

My heartfelt thanks to the corporate partners helping us design and build the demonstration:

The Design Minds, Inc.
Malone Design/Fabrication
MBA Design & Display Products Corp.

And to the museums who have contributed reproductions and content:

Atlanta Botanical Garden
Atlanta History Center
Computer History Museum
High Museum of Art
Michael C. Carlos Museum
National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Monday, April 13, 2015

Monday Musing: On Small Dead Things

15 minutes of top-of-my-head thoughts on a story featured in last week’s Dispatches from theFuture of Museums e-newsletter.

One of the things that drove me out of graduate school (besides the dismal ROI of remaining for a PhD.) was the cumulative psychic damage of killing hundreds of animals in the course of my research. After I injecting a sea urchin with saline to express its sperm, I would trot out to the sea wall and tip it gently into the ocean, hoping it might survive. But the unborn chicks dissected for the sake of the neural membrane at the back of their eyeballs—nope, those were dead. As someone who studied biology because of a profound reverence and fascination for the living world, this felt dissonant, even though I believed in the value of the resulting research.

That’s why I empathize with Karen Haberman, who wrote “On the Significance of Small Dead Things” (featured in Dispatches last week): “with the death of each animal, I cannot help but wonder, must I continue to take the lives of these exquisite creatures in order to study them?”

As she goes on to note, “the death of organisms is as much a part of natural history as multi-pocketed khaki vests, and the two often go arm-in-arm… We must acknowledge the naturalist’s paradox of both loving and killing other animals, and think deeply about when and why we kill as we explore the natural world.” This kind of ethical reexamination of collecting practices is going on within the natural history realm, and increasingly it’s leaking out into the popular press as well. I illustrate this in the Ethical Everything chapter of TrendsWatch 2015 with a couple of recent stories, including a spate within the scientific community on the necessity of voucher specimens, and populist attacks on one scientist when he blogged about collecting a single spider.

Our (us being museums, and scientists) claim of the ethical high ground on collecting comes from the utility of these collections in the long run: increasing our understanding of and empathy for the world; helping with species preservation; curing disease. And Haberman nails the core of the ethical dilemma when she reviews the spotted history of collections preparation and preservation. If the future of natural history (and natural history museums) depends on hooking a new generation on the joys of what we do, what about all the individual lives that will be sacrifices in the cause of “practice” collections? Even when talented amateurs amass good and important collections, will they be identified, adopted and preserved or will they become orphans that disappear? As financial pressures lead organizations to downsize curatorial and collections care staff, can even established museums promise to be good stewards for centuries to come?

I’m preparing a talk on this topic—how long can museums aim to preserve their collections for the future—for the Lost Museum Symposium being held at Brown University May 7 & 8, so this topic is much on my mind. Hence today’s musing. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Transitions: The Next Era of CFM

You’ve probably heard that the Alliance’s president, Ford Bell, is stepping down after the upcoming annual meeting. While CFM was conceived under our last president, Ed Able, it launched under Ford and (as I write in the next issue of Museum) it succeeded in large part due to his willingness to let me set nebulous but ambitious goals, try lots of crazy stuff and fail often. It’s fitting that as Ford leaves, CFM itself grows up a bit, and moves into the next phase of its development. Our incoming president, current COO Laura Lott, has identified the expansion of CFM as key to achieving her vision of AAM as “the go-to place for the museum community to find inspiration, information of course, and support.”

So, the next challenge is figuring out what form this expansion will take. As I shared in a New Year’s post, my long-term goals are to scale up CFM’s work to benefit more people and more organizations; create a sustainable business model that is less reliant on member dues; and to move from ideas to action, translating the insights generated through our forecasting and thought-leadership into real-world change.

I spent a lot of time last year thinking about how to realize these ambitions. As I travelled the country I pinged ideas off the smart people I get to work with in museums and in other sectors. After the manuscript of TrendsWatch went off to the editor in December, I sat down to filter, sort and evaluate those ideas, polished with all that good feedback and the input of colleagues here at the Alliance, and came up with the broad outline of what we are calling CFM 2.0. In this second instar of its life, CFM will grow into its role of research and design lab—a place to test and refine practical applications of our forecasting—by launching two new programs:

The CFM Future Lab, an ever-changing series of practicums in a variety of formats (e.g., hands-on learning, retreats, hack-a-thons, video tutorials, on-line learning, mentorships, prototypes) through which museums explore how to apply emerging technologies and approaches. The CFM Future Lab will:

  • Help museums apply the “museums might like to…” suggestions in CFM’s TrendsWatch reports to their own operations
  • Increase the rate at which innovation diffuses throughout the field
  • Facilitate adoption of new practices in small museums
The CFM Fellows Program, which recruits up-and-coming scholars, journalists, artists, futurists, entrepreneurs and educators to spend one to three years helping museums explore the challenges and opportunities presented by trends shaping the future. Focusing on specific trends or issues identified through CFM’s forecasting work, Fellows may:

  • Expand our understanding of these issues via original research
  • Raise the profile of these issues through writing and speaking
  • Foster partnerships between museums and individuals and companies outside the museum field 
  • Work with the CFM Future Lab to prototype and test ways for museums to adapt to change
In accord with the operating principles of CFM, I’m not planning these new programs out in detail, with five year timelines replete with action steps. We are going to start by piloting a few lab ideas, a few fellowships, and flesh out our plans with what we learn from the early experiments. I’ll talk more about Future Lab later this summer, but for now I want to announce our first dive into the Fellows program: a two-year fellowship provided by the American Council of Learned Societies. (Thank you very much ACLS for selecting us to host one of your Public Fellows!)

Most CFM fellows will be recruited to take a deep dive into one of the many topics raised in our scanning—open data, for example, or entrepreneurship—exploring how it may play out in museums and instigating real world experiments. My chicken-and-the-egg, dilemma, however, has been that as a pretty much one-gal operation, it’s hard to get these new programs started.

So this first fellowship will support a Museum Futurist (or futurist-in-training) to backstop my work and increase our capacity to create and fund additional fellowships and prototype Future Lab. In a few weeks, ACLS will send us resumes of the candidates they have vetted for the position, and we will work with them to select a finalist. That person will join me here at the Alliance in mid-July—I look forward to introducing him/her to you.

We already have plans in the works for the second CFM Fellow, this one focusing on issue-specific work, rather than general futurism. That fellowship will be formally announced at the annual meeting at the end of this month, but I’ll give you a sneak preview here on the blog the week before we leave for Atlanta. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: What did you Expect?


Follow the link in the photo caption to the associated story. You can find more glimpses of the future (and links) on CFM's Pinterest Boards

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Your Guide to the Future at the Annual Meeting 2015

This is your futurist’s guide to our upcoming conference. There are loads of great sessions, so you will have to make some ruthless choices. Here are a few of my picks, tagged both for their connection to themes I’ve explored in the TrendsWatch reports, and for the wattage of the presenters.

But before I list those, here’s what I’ll be up to in Atlanta:

Remember the 2013 demo of 3D printing and last year’s telepresence robots? This year CFM will encourage you to explore wearable technology at CFM’s “Museum of the Future” in MuseumExpo (booth 853).  I will be joined by the Met's inimitable Neal Stimler to help you try out Google Glass and solicit your feedback on how this or other wearables may shape the museum experience in coming decades. I’ll tell you more about the demo in next week’s blog post.

(Another MuseumExpo exhibit you may want to check out, not instigated by CFM but featured in the TrendsWatch 2015 report: The artists collective Not An Alternative is parking their installation "the Natural History Museum” in MuseumExpo, booth #1741. You may already be following their provocative exploration of museums, governance, funding and ethics on the web, Twitter or Facebook.Take this chance to drop by and chat with museum director Beka Economopoulos and her colleagues.)

I’m in two sessions on Tuesday, April 28. In the 8:30 -- 9:45 AM slot (B406) I'll present “TrendsWatch 2015: Your Annual Glimpse of the Future.” Rather than just recapping the report (which I encourage you to download and read before the meeting!) I’m going to focus on recent news stories that illuminate the trends, and on the challenges and opportunities these trends present to museums.

From 1:45 - 3:00 PM I will be joined by two local educators for “Beyond Field Trips: Museums and the Next Era of Education.” Katherine Kelbaugh, director of The Museum School and founder of the new Association of Museum Schools, and Andrea Rombauer, manager of family programs at the Atlanta History Center will help me explore how programs such as theirs, capitalizing on museum-based learning, could scale up to create a new learning landscape in the US. I’ll share more details on that session in a future post as well.

Now on to sessions (all rooms in the Georgia World Congress Center—when you get onsite, check room numbers in the meeting app to make sure nothing has changed.)

Sunday April 26

For a briefing on our field’s other major forecasting initiative—the NMC’s Horizon Report—check out The Museum of the Future Through the Museum of Today from 2-3:15 p.m. (B207), guided by the Baltimore Museum of Art’s Suse Cairns, NMC’s Alex Freeman and Nik Honeysett of the Balboa Park Online Collaborative.

Then from 3:30 – 4:45 p.m., Creating a Personalized and Shared Museum Experience (B314) explores how the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta is using cloud and RFID technology to help visitors create and share tailored content.

Monday, April 27
If you want to follow a “future of museums & education theme” throughout the meeting, kick off with Beyond the Walls: Innovative Museum-School Partnerships (8:30 – 9:45 a.m., B302) with staff from the Autry National Center of the American West, the Museum of Fine Arts, Petersburg and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation.

Harking back to a theme from Trendswatch 2014, you can join staff from the California Academy of Sciences and the research firm Nielson to address How Can Museums Leverage Big Data to Optimize Marketing Mix? (1:45-2:15 p.m., B207).

The Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits and Behavior was “Takin’ it to the Streets” (TrendsWatch 2012) with their street-front exhibit in London. Maria Mortati shares what they learned about mounting Exhibitions Outside the Museum (also at 1:45-2:15 p.m., in room B211).

If you were intrigued by the telepresence robots featured in CFM’s demo last year, visit the Technology Innovation Stage in MuseumExpo from 2:45-3:15 p.m. for Beam Me In! Remote Access to Museums—a presentation on how a variety of museums have implemented remote access programs to increase accessibility.

Tuesday, April 28 

I’m hoping you’ll join me at 8:30 in room B406 for an exploration of this year’s TrendsWatch report—please come armed with examples of how the 2015 themes are playing out at your museum.

From 10:45 a.m.-12 p.m. (B209), more on how technology can fuel the creation of personalized experiences: You Are Here: Navigating Location-Based Technology with staff of the Tech Museum of Innovation, Museum of Science, Boston, and tech consultants JCA.

If you’re jazzed by the demonstration of Google Glass in CFM's Museum of the Future in MuseumExpo, drop in on Creating Tours with Google Glass, 1:45-3 p.m. (B209), with staff of the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco and Antenna International.       

On the other hand, you could spend that 1:45-3 p.m. time slot with a bunch of great folks addressing 50 Years from Now: Training the Museum Staff of the Future, a topic near and dear to my heart (B314).

If you decide to join me at 1:45 for my education session (Beyond Field Trips, B302) you’ll hear more about an EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT being made at the conference. I’ll leak a spoiler here on the blog the week before the meeting, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 29

For the past few years CFM has tracked how museums are “Feeding the Spirit,” so of course I’m drawn to Food 4 Ways: Trends, Messages, Programs and Management with perspectives from the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Atlanta Botanical Garden on addressing food safety, access and healthy eating (9:15 – 10:30 a.m., B407).

Also in this time slot, in room B405, more “Takin’ it to the Street” style programs are featured in Meeting People Where They Are: Pop-up Engagement Experiments (with staff from the Museum of Modern Art and Minneapolis Institute of Arts.)

The session Art + Science + Preschool: Building Engagement and Access (10:45-12 p.m., B406) looks like a great place to explore one way of creating the “vibrant learning grid” envisioned in CFM’s “Building the Future of Education” report. It explores a collaborative “whole community” approach between museums and early childhood learning centers in Atlanta.

And Wednesday afternoon some lucky folks get to try out a “personal museum oracle” profiled in TrendsWatch 2015 via the Onsite Insight “Solve Your Personal Problems with Art-o-mancy” at the High Museum of Art. While preregistration for that event has closed, starting April 13 you can check the Ticket Exchange Forum in the AAM events app to try to snag an available slot. If you want to read more about Art-o-mancy before you go ticket-hunting, check out this post on the CFM Blog.

Have you flagged other futures-oriented sessions from the online program? If so, please share them in the comments section to help your fellow attendees plan their agendas. And see you in Atlanta!