AWSI: This Museum’s Detour Advances Storytelling…

SFMOMA Detour iphone App

SFMOMA opens with a Detour that has the gang curious. A location aware app running on an iPhone is being used as “a tool for telling stories, built by curious people with a talent for telling them.”

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it. — FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF

Funny how something from over 30-years ago “sticks” in your mind. At least, that’s what Annie told us. We all nodded approvingly as we are very familiar with this type of thing and glad she’s having similar experiences.

She was talking about an article she read in the San Francisco Chronicle about a series of iPhone audio tours created by a start-up called Detour, that are available as part of the re-opening of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (AKA SFMOMA).

So, yeah, the idea that iPhones are being used to “guide” your way around a museum isn’t new and for some, like Annie, this conjures up a visual of people stumbling around looking down instead of up — which has become the norm these days (thus the quote above about looking around).

But this “location aware” app is different because it tracks “listeners as they wander the galleries and offer different guides to the art, depending on one’s taste.” Huh??

Sports fans can hear Dave Righetti, Jon Miller and Renel Brooks-Moon of the Giants giving a play-by-play description of the museum’s collection. Or visitors can listen to “Silicon Valley” actors Martin Starr and Kumail Nanjiani muse about whether an artist pulled his work “out of a landfill and put it in a gallery.” More respectful tours are also available.

Sounds like fun (pun intended).

In Annie’s eyes, she sees the scene from John Hughes’ movie, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (1986)

Art Institute of Chicago with Ferris Bueller

Ferris & friends visit the Art Institute of Chicago.

No iPhones involved. They just stood pondering the art — losing themselves in the moment.

But back to the SFMOMA…

TheVerge’s Casey Newton did a nice write-up that delved a bit more into the “how it works” aspect of Detour’s high-tech audio tours:

  • Detour uses the phone’s gyroscope and accelerometer to measure your position and adjusts the audio accordingly.
  • Background music continues to play as you amble along; it’s recorded and played separately from the vocal track.
  • If you’re with friends, the app syncs audio between your phones so that you hear the same thing. [Imagine that in a remake of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”)

Notable quotable:

Detour is a much more modest app — and that’s part of why I find it so likeable. It’s a tool for telling stories, built by curious people with a talent for telling them. I’m still not totally sure where Detour is going, but I like watching its path develop.

Yup, that last got our attention: “a tool for telling stories, built by curious people with a talent for telling them.” Ding! We’re in!

[You can read the Detour press announcement here.]

Now the Gang here at Jedemi has some more cool tech to play around with — maybe even moving beyond our old school napkins and jukebox songs for communication. How cool is that?

Thanks to Annie for sharing with us something she was curious about.

We’ve got it on our list for further exploration.

Thanks for reading and #SCMF!

—The Gang

Wired SFMOMA Detour app

Wired’s write-up.

Bonus Content – On Ferris Bueller:

John Hughes video explains ‘Ferris Bueller’ scene at Art Institute here.


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