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Review: SF MoMA app elevates museum experience with audio and indoor positioning technology

By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

San Francisco: The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SF MoMA) recently unveiled its impressive 7-floor extension with 130,000 square feet of space and double the capacity of the previous space. Along with this expansion, SF MoMA has also added a substantial number of artwork and entire collections spanning everything from post-impressionism to contemporary painting, photography, sculpture and design.

Along with this new extension, SF MoMA has released a truly innovative and engaging companion app that involves state of the art audio content with precise indoor positioning technology as well as synched technology so multiple users can listen together on their respective devices.

The SF MoMA app (iOS) is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies and developed in partnership with local startup Detour, this app features a new breed of guided narratives that take you through the galleries and out onto the streets of San Francisco.

Inside the SF MoMA, the app can determine if there are any nearby points of interests and users can access audio guides on demand. 

There are also specic walking tours with audio from curators as well as celebrities.

One such Immersive Walk, which I tried out today, featured two of my favourite actors from Silicon Valley Martin Starr (Gilfoyle) and Kumail Nanjiani (Dinesh) serving as comic foil for the curator.

What impressed me about the SF MoMA app is that it knows your relative location and can even guide you towards specific pieces in the collection, it's a peek at what technologies like iBeacon as well as 3D mapping technologies like Google and Lenovo's Project Tango.

With the app and your headphones, you can get great guided tours plus snack-sized (60-90 second) audio reflections and responses to artworks from various celebrities.

What museum goers will appreciate is that you don't have to see the artwork through the lens of your phone camera. Audio plays almost automagically depending on your location so you can listen and appreciate the artwork.

The SF MoMA app is better than tape or CD based audio tours. The production quality of the audio is laid back and doesn't take itself too seriously it is all about art being fun or inciting emotions.

You're not subjected to a litany of boring historical facts but are instead treated to various points of views on specific pieces as well as vital threads that connect work that is curated together.

The app is ideal if you want to see specific pieces or collections or if you don't have enough time to see the whole museum.

The new SF MoMA extension is so immense and all-encompassing that it will require a few hours to see everything (a few more if you really want to savour the impeccable collection of artwork and sculpture).

I used the SF MoMA app with my iPhone 5C and it worked great after I got on the museum's free Wi-Fi account. The SF MoMA app really points the way for smart apps on smartphones and tablets to become the ideal virtual guides for museum visitors.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


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