Akron Art Museum launches chatbot tour guide

Akron Art Museum, Ohio, has launched Dot: a digital tour guide available as a chatbot to visitors. It aims to bring artwork to life with provoking questions to spark conversation.

Dot is used on Facebook Messenger app, and sends visitors messages as they tour the Akron Art Museum.

Dot is the result of around two years of research and development by the museum. The research and development was funded by a $173,000 grant from the Miami-based Knight Foundation.

Staff at Akron Art Museum decided they wanted to use the grant money to develop a trend they already saw: visitors using art to kick off conversations.

Chris Barr, Knight’s director of arts and technology innovation, said: “It’s a recognition that people are coming to these spaces not to learn about art, but to learn about themselves. That’s what art does for us. It gives us a way to challenge ourselves and create meaning in our lives.”

The digital chatbot, Dot, introduces herself – telling visitors: “My job is to connect you and your crew to the art and to each other.”

She can talk about 60 different objects and provide succinct directions around the museum.

Museum technology

Jennifer Shipman, the Akron museum’s chief of staff and director of special projects, said: “We knew we wanted to keep it light and fun, but we also wanted some sort of important fact, and we also wanted to draw a personal connection between the people here.”

The museum worked with consultants at Maya Design in Pittsburgh, Form Group in Shaker Heights, and Cleveland-based designer Jordan-Elise Perme.

Shipman added, “It was a lot of work but it was really great fun work. We’re really excited to see how visitors utilize it, but also hear their feedback as well.

“The way that they built the research and built out the technology – my hope is that some of that sticks and that they really bring that into the work that they do in the future.”

The Museum of the Future, in Dubai, is also looking into chatbot solutions.

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