by Dorée Duncan Seligmann


Dorée Duncan Seligmann

Researchers and engineers trying to come up with that elusive killer application or an interesting domain with challenging goals and constraints, look no further—museums need your help. Whether you are interested in technology applications for consumers or enterprise, museums can easily satisfy both. And if you want your inventions to have a strong impact and reach a wide and diverse audience, museums can provide you with that user body. Furthermore, museums are well suited for technological experimentation. Scores of interesting problems must be solved to help museums achieve their missions.

Learn more about museums and their goals here.

Four of this month's featured theme articles just touch upon a few possible uses of technology to enhance a visitor's experience. "Dalica: Agent-Based Ambient Intelligence for Cultural-Heritage Scenarios" describes how technology can enhance cultural assets. Dalica is a system designed for visitors of archeological sites and museums. Intelligent agents deduce user interests and then present personalized information to visitors via location-tracked PDAs. The system has been used in Hadrian's Villa (or Villa Adriana) near Rome, 250 acres on which stand a complex of 30 buildings constructed during the rule of the Emperor Hadrian in the second century. The system is also adapted to support the safe transport of cultural assets.

"Enabling Mobile Phones to Support Large-Scale Museum Guidance" and "Mobile Phone-Enabled Museum Guidance with Adaptive Classification" both describe the PhoneGuide system that combines location-awareness with a lightweight object recognition solution. The system was deployed at the Museum of the City Of Weimar where visitors could receive information about the exhibition by photographing the objects on display with a camera-equipped mobile phone.

"Interactive Humanoid Robots for a Science Museum" describes the results of an experiment using communication robots in a museum setting. Young visitors to the Osaka Science Museum were identified through RFID tags. The robots could refer to them by name, interacting with and guiding them.

The fifth article, "The Shannon Portal Installation: Interaction Design for Public Places," describes the design process for an interactive installation that was deployed in Ireland's Shannon Airport. The system consisted of an interactive kiosk and public image wall through which users had access to a corpus of photographs and could upload their own; they could also search, annotate, draw on, email, display, and manipulate the photographs on the public wall.

The related articles describe a range of topics applied to museums including interactive displays, natural interfaces, speech, mixed reality, virtual reality, and usability testing.

These articles show just a few ways that computer scientists can help museums move forward and secure their place in the future.

Dorée Duncan Seligmann is the Director of Collaborative Applications Research at Avaya Labs, where she works in the areas of social software, context-aware applications, presence-based technologies, and mobile communication solutions.



Mobile Phone-Enabled Museum Guidance with Adaptive Classification

by Erich Bruns, Benjamin Brombach, and Oliver Bimber
From the July/August 2008 issue of IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications

Over the past four years, we developed PhoneGuide, an adaptive museum guidance system that uses mobile phones for on-device object recognition (see Figure 1). PhoneGuide allows museum visitors to use their own mobile phones for retrieving information about exhibited objects. This is possible by taking a photograph of presented objects; the system then recognizes them automatically using image classification techniques. After identifying an object, PhoneGuide provides corresponding multimedia information, such as replayed audio or displayed text and video content. Compared to audio guides, we believe that this approach is more intuitive and more flexible for museum visitors, and more economic for museum owners.

Enabling Mobile Phones To Support Large-Scale Museum Guidance

by Erich Bruns, Benjamnin Brombach, Thomas Zeidler, and Oliver Bimber
From the April–June 2007 issue of IEEE MultiMedia

Mobile phones have the potential of becoming a future platform for personal museum guidance. They enable full multimedia presentations and—assuming that the visitors are using their own devices—will significantly reduce acquisition and maintenance costs for museum operators. However, several technological challenges must be mastered before this concept is successful. One is the question of how individual museum objects can be intuitively identified before presenting corresponding information.

DALICA: Agent-Based Ambient Intelligence for Cultural-Heritage Scenarios

by Stefania Costantini, Leonardo Mostarda, Arianna Tocchio, and Panagiota Tsintza
From the March/April 2008 issue of IEEE Intelligent Systems

Villa Adriana is an enormous archaeological area where ancient artifacts and modern technology have found an unexpected equilibrium. The old artifacts are huge stone monuments; the modern technology includes PDAs and signals from the Galileo satellite combined with intelligent software agents.

Interactive Humanoid Robots for a Science Museum

by Masahiro Shiomi, Takayuki Kanda, Hiroshi Ishiguro, and Norihiro Hagita
From the March/April 2007 issue of IEEE Intelligent Systems

One objective of the Intelligent Robotics and Communication Laboratories is to develop an intelligent communication robot that supports people in an open everyday environment by interacting with them. A humanoid robot can help achieve this objective because its physical structure lets it interact through human-like body movements such as shaking hands, greeting, and pointing. Both adults and children are more likely to understand such interactions than interactions with an electronic interface such as a touch panel or buttons. A human-like body is also more likely to hold people's attention.

The Shannon Portal Installation: Interaction Design for Public Places

by Luigina Ciolfi, Mikael Fernström, Liam J. Bannon, Parag Deshpande, Paul Gallagher, Colm McGettrick, Nicola Quinn, and Stephen Shirley
From the July 2007 issue of Computer

The Interaction Design Centre is involved in the Shared Worlds research project, funded by Science Foundation Ireland. This project investigates the design and deployment of interactive artifacts in public spaces.


What's New


Flagbearers for Technology: Contemporary Techniques Showcase US Artifact and European Treasures

by James Figueroa
Computing Now Exclusive Content — December 2008

Modern-day technology and the Internet's continued growth have bolstered museums in multiple ways, providing culture-seekers with an interesting choice—pack your bags to take in the aura of collected works and artifacts personally, or go online to find digitized collections from the comfort of your own home. That choice was illustrated in the space of two days in November, with the realization of two ambitious projects. One was the Smithsonian's remodeled National Museum of American History, featuring a high-tech exhibit displaying the famed Star-Spangled Banner, the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the United States' national anthem.

Single Sign-On and Social Networks

by Greg Goth
From the December 2008 issue of IEEE Distributed Systems Online

Call it what you will—single sign-on, federated identity, one-stop authentication—letting users sign on to the Internet once and securely access network resources anywhere has been one of the industry's enduring quests.

Reproducible Research in Computational Harmonic Analysis

by David L. Donoho, Arian Maleki, Morteza Shahram, Inam Ur Rahman, and Victoria Stodden
From the January/February 2009 issue of Computing in Science & Engineering

Scientific computation is emerging as absolutely central to the scientific method, but the prevalence of very relaxed practices is leading to a credibility crisis. Reproducible computational research, in which all details of computations—code and data—are made conveniently available to others, is a necessary response to this crisis. The authors review their approach to reproducible research and describe how it evolved over time, discussing the arguments for and against working reproducibly.

Unconferences Catch On with Developers

by Mark Ingrebretsen
From the November/December 2008 issue of IEEE Software is one of those small applications that could wind up having a major impact on future Web interfaces. Deeply tied to's e-commerce platform, the site duplicates what a customer at a brick-and-mortar bookstore would see—shelves of books arranged by subject. So, visitors can view not only the title they're looking for but also others in the same subject area.

Virtual Human versus Human Administration of Photographic Lineups

by Brent Daugherty, Sabarish Babu, Lori Van Wallendael, Brian Cutler, and Larry F. Hodges
From the November/December 2008 issue of IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications

Investigations by the Innocence Project ( using DNA evidence have led to the exoneration of more than 200 convicted felons, many of whom spent more than 10 years in prison, and some of whom were sentenced to death. The actual number of erroneous convictions is likely orders of magnitude higher than 200 for two reasons. First, almost all the exonerated cases in the Innocence Project involved sexual assault because definitive DNA evidence (contained in semen) is available for these cases. However, according to one recent study conducted in and around Chicago, sexual assault was involved in only 5 percent of all lineups. Furthermore, in most cases involving DNA evidence, this evidence has since deteriorated, was lost, or was destroyed.

AI and the Language of Life

by Mark Ingebretsen
From the November/December 2008 issue of IEEE Intelligent Systems

Every day in thousands of cities across the planet, millions of cars creep along in traffic, wasting fuel, spewing carbon, and adding to urban stress levels. By some estimates, daily traffic accounts for a third of humanity's energy consumption.

When IT Gets Cultural: Data Management and Agile Development

by Scott Ambler
From the November/December 2008 issue of IT Professional

How the technical impedance mismatch between object-oriented and relational database technologies became a cultural mismatch that still separates the data and development communities, and what to do about it.

From Tapping to Touching: Making Touch Screens Accessible to Blind Users

by Tiago Guerreiro, Paulo Lagoá, Hugo Nicolau, Daniel Gonçalves, and Joaquim A. Jorge
From the October–December 2008 issue of IEEE MultiMedia

Mobile phones play an important role in modern society. Their applications extend beyond basic communications, ranging from productivity to leisure. However, most tasks beyond making a call require significant visual skills. While screen-reading applications make text more accessible, most interaction, such as menu navigation and especially text entry, requires hand-eye coordination, making it difficult for blind users to interact with mobile devices and execute tasks. Although solutions exist for people with special needs, these are expensive and cumbersome, and software approaches require adaptations that remain ineffective, difficult to learn, and error prone.

.Tel TLD debuts as new way to network

by James Figueroa
Computing Now Exclusive Content — December 2008

Alternative top-level domains such as .biz haven't gained the same popularity as more established TLDs such as .com and .org. A British company is hoping to break the mold with .tel, which changes some basic principles of the domain name system. Designed strictly as a communication tool, .tel acts as a "webless Web," enabling subscribers to post contact information and supporting data without the need of a Web host or html.

It's an unusual but simple concept that can be characterized as an Internet phone book. Telnic hopes it will gain traction as a one-stop area for all kinds of communication—from Twitter to e-mail to Voice over IP. All information on a .tel page is stored directly within domains using Naming Authority Pointer (NAPTR) resource records, a relatively new type of DNS record that can identify phone numbers or VoIP service addresses.

Science Exchange

by James Figueroa
Computing Now Exclusive Content — December 2008

Neil deGrasse Tyson, a noted astrophysicist who hosts the PBS program NOVA ScienceNOW, had a problem with Titanic.

The box-office-champion movie, which Tyson remembered for its billing as a realistic portrayal of the doomed ocean liner's collision with an iceberg in 1912, was sent to theaters featuring the wrong sky for the place and time that the ship sank. "Not only that, it was a lazy sky," Tyson complained with lighthearted exuberance. "The left half of the sky was a mirror reflection of the right half."

Nanoscale Optical Computing using Resonance Energy Transfer Logic

by Constantin Pistol, Chris Dwyer, and Alvin Lebeack
From the November/December 2008 issue of IEEE Micro

Nanoscale devices offer the possibility of a new era in computing. Device sizes at the molecular scale will let computer architects deploy a plethora of devices—creating, for example, million-core designs. Furthermore, because nanoscale devices could contain a significant amount of computational circuitry in an area smaller than a typical biological cell, they could prompt the emergence of new application domains.

Launching into the Cyberspace Race

by O. Sami Saydjari
From the November/December 2008 issue of IEEE Security & Privacy

Born in secrecy, the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI) is possibly one of the most significant technology policy events of the decade and could affect the cyber landscape for the next half century. Championed by the Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, this initiative was made possible by the hard work of Melissa E. Hathaway, who forged consensus among nearly two dozen diverse organizations and several Congressional committees to make the initiative work. Now that the initiative is under way, she took a brief moment to share the view from the inside of the creation of this historic program.

Crowdsourcing and Attention

by Bernardo A. Huberman
From the November 2008 issue of Computer

We're witnessing an inversion of the traditional way in which people have generated and consumed content. From photography to news to encyclopedic knowledge, in a centuries-old pattern, relatively few people and organizations produced content for consumption by everyone else. With the advent of the Web and the ease of migrating content to it, that pattern has reversed. Today, millions of people create content in the form of blogs, wikis, videos, music, and so on, and few can attend to it all.

Combining the Power of Taverna and caGrid: Scientific Workflows that Enable Web-Scale Collaboration

by Wei Tan, Ian Foster, and Ravi Madduri
From the November/December 2008 issue of IEEE Internet Computing

Service-oriented architecture (SOA) promises to evolve the Web from an information hub to a machine-to-machine collaboration platform. In science, in which rapid and accurate communication is often vital to progress, adopting SOA approaches could bring about "service-oriented science." Biomedical research is one field that's benefitted from Web-scale collaboration using SOA. (See the "Wrapping Biomedical Data as Services" sidebar.) The effort to virtualize resources as services in service-oriented science can foster an ecosystem that facilitates scientific investigation in a Web-scale manner.

The State of ESL Design

From the November/December 2008 issue of IEEE Design & Test of Computers

This is the first of two roundtables on electronic system-level design in this issue of IEEE Design & Test. ESL design and tools have been present in the design landscape for many years. Significant ESL innovations are now part of most advanced design methodologies, spanning the domains of modeling, simulation, and synthesis. Techniques such as transaction-level modeling, automatic interconnection generation, behavioral synthesis, automatic instruction-set customization, retargetable compilers, and many others are currently used in the design of multimillion-gate chips. Yet, ESL design still seems to struggle to live up to the promise of providing increased productivity and design quality. This roundtable examines these issues and attempts to provide a definite picture of where ESL design is today and where it might be in the next five to 10 years. The participants in this roundtable include well-known experts in ESL design from the user side, universities, and tool providers.

Instant Places: Using Bluetooth for Situated Interaction in Public Displays

by Rui José, Nuno Otero, Shahram Izadi, and Richard Harper
From the October–December 2008 issue of IEEE Pervasive Computing

Public digital displays are increasingly pervasive and an important enabling technology for many types of ubiquitous computing scenarios. Not only do they provide a simple and effective way of bringing digital information into our physical world, but their presence could also be a catalyst for situated interaction and the emergence of local user-generated content. To successfully bridge the virtual and physical worlds, public displays should become an integral part of the physical and social setting in which they're placed by empowering situated social practices and actions. Rather than relying on predefined models about local activities, their behavior should essentially depend on their material and physical circumstances. Yet, their behavior should also align with the always diffuse and highly dynamic understanding of the behavioral appropriateness and cultural expectations normally associated with place.