GoogleGlass4Museums: a story of reverse engineering and digital storytelling

The Masterclass ‘Story-telling and story-selling. Digital kids between transmedia experiences and market trends‘ held in Bologna on March 26 provided the occasion to  discover concret examples of cooperation between publishing and technological assets in children publishing. Irene Angelopulos (Mubo) and Giulio Caperdoni (Vidiemme) explained how this sinergy brought to the development of GoogleGlass4museums.

GoogleGlass4Museums is a project which combines publishing and technological assets, exploiting the pecularities of both worlds. How did you manage to create contents adapted for new devices and to take advantage of the potentialities of GoogleGlass? Which is the process behind it?

GoogleGlass4Museums is a project for the development of a prototype app designed to give an interactive tour of the Hall of 500 in the Palazzo Vecchio (Florence), establishing a new approach that will bring kids closer to art venues and art in general. Vidiemme Consulting and Mubo joined their competences to create an optimized product for Google Glass. The first step is a brainstorming activity to define the best user experience considering target, surrounding circumstances and goals. After that we consider how to match together the experience we want to create and the specificity of device through reverse engineering: a study in collaboration with technological partners to identify the specificities of the device. Than we need to fit the so called super powers  of the device to the user stiching a super hero costume. The ‘costume’ is adapted to what we call the user metaphor, that is a way to create the best experience in the place  through a narrative. At the end of the process we create a storytelling specially designed for the peculiarities of the device.

The idea was born thanks to the sinergy between a digital publishing start-up and a technological company. How was this partnership born? Which are the strenghts and the issues of this collaboration?  

The project GoogleGlass4Museums comes from the synergy between Mubo and Vidiemme, a digital publishing start-up and a company with a proven track record in the field of mobile and wearable devices, to develop a digital publishing project optimized for Google Glass. Mubo is now working on Santa Croce Kids, an interactive guide with augmented reality for tablets as support to the visit of Santa Croce’s church in Florence.  Vidiemme has achieved a demo for the Egyptian Museum in Turin called GoogleGlass4LIS. This collaboration is based on the complemetary competences of Vidiemme and Mubo. Today we need new ways to match together publishing contents and software engineering focused on new devices and trying to create new augmented reading and visiting experience.

During your presentation you spoke about reverse engineering. What about it?

We started from the idea that the result of the combination of an editorial content and a technological device is not just a simple product, but an experience too. That means that the desing of this experience is one of the most important works we have to face. Otherwise the user experience design is the job that mixes toghether the technological part with the publisher part in order to allow the user to have the best experience possible, both from the side of the pleasure of the consumption of the editorial contents, and the intuitive use of the device. But to achieve this goal is necessary for the contents producer to have many information about the device used. To write a Storytelling specially designed for the different devices, is very important to know very well the device, to use it a lot, and to observe your target using the device. We think this kind of work is absolutely necessary but not enough to have the right percepition of the specifities and the possibilities offered by the device. So, what we called reverse engineering is the other part of the job. The reverse engineering is a job made in collaboration with the technological partner to transfer to us more detailed informations about the device. Theese informations are part of the typical engineer knowledge. All this to say that as digital publisher, in the designing of the contents, we don’t start from what we want to say or what we want to offer, but we start from the analysis of the device, and only after this phase we project the interaction design and than the contents. Just to give you an example, the Google Glass gives the opportunity to explore a synthetic image (or video) in 2 different ways: the first is ‘traditional’, you can see the image or the video screened on the glasses prisma; the second exploits a specific feature of the glass, you can see the image or the video turning your head. This second way allows the user to explore the left part of the image turning the head to the left, and the right part turning to the right. If the synthetic image is a 3D file, the final effect of an immersive exploration  is very augmented. In both cases the content is the same and has the same level of access for the user, but in the first case we are just focused on the content, in second we match content and device in order to offer a better user experience. Finally, reverse engineering is a workflow that integrates the technological knowledge to the editorial one.

Why did you choose to focus on young adults for this project? Did you do any testing with them? If so, which are the key findings?

We choosed Young Adults as target audience for this product because kids love stories, they like adventures and they are digital natives. They use every day devices that contain publishing contents and they live in a digital ambient. They are at ease with playing and that’s why we use also some elements coming from gamification. We didn’t do any test on this project yet, but Mubo and Vidiemme are focused on this target and have already useful experiences.

What about the business model of this project?

At the moment the prototype is a product in non-commercial beta stage. Anyway we want to create a replicable model for other museums and art sites.

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