Personalized Active Cultural Heritage: The PEACH Experience

Personalized Active Cultural Heritage: The PEACH Experience

Oliviero Stock, Massimo Zancanaro
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-883-8.ch020
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The development of intelligent guides for a museum is an important theme of research entailing a variety of challenging aspects. Intelligent guides are based on the idea that information presentation should take into account the context of the individual, in the first place the position of the visitor, but also other information that the system can infer about his background, interests and attitude during the visit, and tailor presentation of information accordingly. PEACH was a large project devoted to cultural heritage appreciation that combined aspects of basic research and applied research specific for the development of a complex prototype. The chapter provides a state of the art of intelligent museum guides, a presentation of PEACH and several of the involved technologies, and an assessment of some of the outstanding further challenges.
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PEACH–Personal Experience with Active Cultural Heritage—was a large four year project exploring novel technologies for physical museum visits. It was developed at IRST in Trento and DFKI, the German Institute for Research in Artificial Intelligence, in Saarbrücken.

The aim of the project was to significantly increase the quality of cultural heritage appreciation by investigating intelligent tools, or, more ambitiously, an environment, for making a visit to a museum a rewarding experience. The PEACH project ended in 2005, but its breadth in exploring the potential of intelligent systems in the museum and specific contributions to research on intelligent interfaces influence some current research. Among developments, it is at the basis of a new phase of research in the framework of a bilateral project between FBK-irst and University of Haifa.

This chapter is an overview of some of the main results of PEACH. It is meant to provide a concrete idea of the outcome of this project, leaving out technical aspects, more appropriate for specialist communities. For the reader interested in further details we would like to refer to three comprehensive publications: a book (Stock and Zancanaro 2007) which includes all the themes of the project; a paper that focuses on one of the most ambitious and future-oriented themes – automated flexible production of documentaries (Callaway et al. 2005a); and the most complete PEACH paper on adaptive, intelligent presentation of information for the museum visitor (Stock et al. 2007).

A cultural visit is a blend of cognition, emotion, and social communication; perhaps it is the most central case of educational entertainment. The end goal is for people to enjoy the process of acquiring knowledge, to understand more about the past (and possibly about the present and the future), to appreciate art, and through this, to develop an interest for the site and, possibly, in general for a subject such as archeology, history or art. With the wide development of museums and the emergence of the cultural experience as a mass phenomenon, tools for museum communication have been introduced: labels illustrating exhibits, guidebooks, and guided tours. Following this, different forms of technology have been introduced such as audio material on cassettes and later CDs as well as visual material through various forms of kiosks, screens, or presentation rooms. In some museums, coarse-grained localization systems have been introduced as well that let the system automatically know what room the visitor is in, so that the presentation recorded for that room can be automatically selected.

For the sophisticated visitors, the museum visit is a complex experience that encompasses multiple cognitive and emotional aspects. They have personal ways of elaborating background and new knowledge, and they have different interests and preferences. Technologies to support such visitors are sometimes not yet ready for the mass market but represent an important research theme for information presentation technologies (Stock and Zancanaro, 2005). Design requires effort in a number of aspects: the graphical interface and its usability, the adaptation mechanism and its effectiveness, and the overall satisfaction of the visitor. Moreover, technology designers need to consider the intrusiveness of the devices they propose for supporting visits. It should also be stated that, even if the museum world is very cautious about the introduction of technology on its physical premises, research is perceived as stimulating new concepts in the visit, and is looked upon with increasing attention and expectations.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Natural Language Generation: the generation of a textual presentation

Adaptivity: the feature of being flexible in dependence of the context, situation, target

Mobile Guide: a program based on a PDA or similar, meant to provide presentations for a visitor to a museum or other physical cultural site

PDA: personal digital assistant, in this text also “handheld device”

Intelligent User Interface: a program that is able to interact with the user in an intelligent way, for instance deciding how to combine a set of modalities, or by exploiting a model of the user for deciding how to express itself and/or is able to understand communication on the part of the user.

Presentation Generation: the process of producing a presentation out of internal representations or partial presentations

Automatic Positioning: automatic identification of the location of a visitor

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