In an attempt to reach the next generation of art enthusiasts, major art museums have begun using beacon technology, providing a second-screen experience for digitally inclined museum goers.
Beacons are small, wireless transmitters that broadcast radio signals short distances to smartphones and other electronic devices, tracking visitors within a few feet as they wander through gallery spaces. These automated docents seamlessly improve the visitor experience—they act as a virtual tour guide and provide a more personalized experience with the art.
And while the museum space has typically remained a private domain, void of smart phone alerts, digitizing the museum experience is a step in the right direction.
While people once walked around with the phones in their pocket, smartphone users now carry their phones in their hands, the constant buzz of notifications and messages ubiquitous among the general population. Beacon technology capitalizes on this trend, particularly among millennials, to create a digital dialogue between museums and their visitors.
Long gone are the days of squinting down at summary museum labels. Whether standing in front of a Pollock or a Van Gogh, beacons work to provide visitors with a comprehensive assortment of information, including audio talks, reviews and artist history.
Beacons easily allow users to post the museum’s artworks to Facebook and Twitter, all part of a multi-faceted, digital experience. Beacon technology also steers visitors to certain areas of the museum—the technology essentially acts like an indoor Google Maps. Within the large and complex designs of the nation’s art museums, this feature could be extremely valuable to the museum newcomer.
Most major museums, including the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and LACMA, have adopted beacon technology in an effort to engage with visitors. Using beacons, museum administrators and curators will be able to collect user data in order to analyze museum traffic flow and amend curatorial choices.
The art world has been slow to embrace digital technology, but with the rise of the computer-created art market and the influx of digital art startups, museums are appropriately catching up. The greatest advantage of beacon technology is that users are provided with an endless feed of information without foregoing the intimate and undisturbed visitor tradition. Beacons provide museum-goers with an all-encompassing view of the art around them, enhancing the museum experience tenfold.