Dundalk County Museum embraces digital age with new ‘virtual presenter’ for visitors

30 Jul 2013

It’s virtual reality time in Co Louth! A new ‘virtual presenter’ created by Casio is now in situ at Dundalk County Museum. In what is being hailed as a European first, the virtual presenter, or avatar, will interact with visitors to the museum via a realistic-looking character that will speak via a screen.

The virtual presenter tool has been created by Casio Signage, a division of Casio – a company probably most famous for its calculators.

It was installed in the museum yesterday. The virtual unit will relay information about four museum exhibits – Vere Foster, Napper Tandy, King William of Orange and Olympian Beatrice Hill-Lowe.

The project has been jointly initiated by the Dundalk museum, Casio and Quick Response Ireland. According to the trio, the installation is the first of its kind in Ireland and the first such virtual presenter at a European museum.

It would appear that, internationally, only one other such virtual presenter is already in use – in Japan.

Human-like avatar

The screen in the Dundalk museum is shaped like the character, which visitors can select to match the characteristics needed to bring people into a given location. The character’s appearance and voice can be changed to keep repeat customers from losing interest, according to the museum.

The installation also offers multilingual support for visitors who speak various languages, and its light source lasts for circa 20,000 hours.

The full-size virtual presenter will be installed in the museum reception area in the coming weeks. It will introduce the visitor to the museum in general and will then guide them to the desktop virtual presenter.

Linking in history and culture with the digital era

James Maher of Quick Response Ireland explained how the company linked up with the museum.

He said Quick Response is focused on bringing history and heritage to life using web-based technology tools.

“We have been working with Brian Walsh [museum curator] over the past number of months integrating new technologies, such as QR codes, augmented reality and mobile seamlessly into the county museum environment in Dundalk.”

Walsh said both the desktop and full-sized virtual presenters can be updated as exhibitions in the museum change.

“We were trying to think of a name to suit our new member of the museum team and have settled on Cassie-O, so now we just have to work on a name for her sister who arrives in the next few weeks!” he said.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic