Imagine walking through the Philadelphia Museum of Art and enjoying the galleries in a very different and immersive fashion. Audio clues tell first person stories that give you a sense of real experiences left behind by pieces in the museum’s collection, both ancient and contemporary. Experience a dynamic open world, a masterful blend of the intuitive and logical parts of your brain.

We want the user to be able to leave her or his personalized voice memo and time stamp that contributes to the history of the Philadelphia Museum of Art as a dynamic lived space. A space that gets visitors excited about interacting with the museum’s collection, on their own terms.

Another key inspiration was thinking about making games for the visually impaired. I had asked Austin Sepharim the type of games he enjoy. He prefer games with stories that can takes advantage of your imagination. It reminds us that a part of gaming that easily gets overlooked is what is not shown but felt.

What it does

This is an iOS game that, when started, will listen for the nearby iBeacons. Each gallery space will have several beacons that provide a a story snippet related to specific works of art. The volume will adjust depending on your range. The [game] challenge is to leave random voice memos. Think of arti as a 21st-Century-first digital audio game interpretation of The Surrealist game called “The Exquisite Corpse.”

You, the visitor, may also hear voice memos from previous visitors. You may even come across recordings that you do not like. This is where the meta game is played! You may choose to take a passive role and let it go or take action and overwrite it. Only one voice memo can left for each beacon. This is your opportunity to contribute something meaningful and personal. But know that opportunity is afforded to anyone. This makes coming to the Art museum a dynamic and constantly changing experience. Visitors are leaving their time stamp, and if you will, are paying it forward to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

How we built it

  • Elizabeth researched and created story scripts for the main story points in certain wings of the Art Museum. She also provide the color palette and app icon.
  • Alex composed the soundtracks and edited all the scripted audio clips. He contribute a few voice memos and recording.
  • Kotaro used Swift 3.0 and took advantage of the pmaToolKit library, which Kotaro forked a version to Swift 3.0 and used the location + beacon data to see the iBeacons sprinkled around the galleries. Also provided the voice for some of the story scripts.
  • Deep developed a Mongo backend APIs for the iOS app to upload store, and retrieve the voice memos.

Challenges we ran into

  • The pmaToolKit library needed to be updated and the location.json was not readily available at the start. We also had APIs that did a lot of things but ended up not needing them when we found the locations.json from last year.
  • Not having a lot of time to access the museum galleries is a pain point for anyone who wants to use the beacons. It would have been great to get at least a one day pass to really test the beacons.
  • We never had much opportunities to sit down and work in person outside of the hack lab days. That presented some communication challenges that we had to learn how to adjust through.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

  • None of us ever worked together before but everyone contribute a great deal of time and talent. We had a vision from the start and we stuck with it.
  • Game Jams are hard to complete in general. That is an accomplishment in it of itself.
  • Even with everything else going on it our lives, we committed a lot of time and effort to getting this done from the start. You'll lucky to have a strong team. Especially one that has never worked together before.

What we learned

  • Working with a solid and committed team is always fun.
  • Slack is a great tool but not always the best place to hold and maintain long conversations as things can get too far down the thread. Sometimes a simple conversation in person can clear up a lot in a hurry.
  • Beacon interactions can be fun but also very finicky to play with. We needed to buy our own to do our own internal testing. Another possible idea is giving every team a beacon to use to test instead of the thumb drive of data since everything can be downloaded from the GitHub site.

What's next for arti

We have to iron out stories to be more interconnected. The iOS app needs refinements to communicate with the backend a little better. We would also have to understand what potential server costs we would be dealing with and if it would need to be migrated somehow. With more time for development, our goal is to collect audio recordings in a range of languages and regional accents that represent the diversity of visitors to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. That way, each and every visitor can "put themself into the picture". Finding ways to save the audio files or share them with your gallery location might be nice.

We see immense potential in integrating some artificial intelligence as a future feature to arti. Using the collections data as a back end, there can be a way to generate machine learning models which can help in even recommend a visitor which masterpiece to go to next, depending on where the visitor currently is. Given the open world nature of its gameplay, the massive power of user choice can play a role in visitor engagement, and make the player want some more, each time.

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