Thursday, June 13, 2024

Personalizing cultural attractions, the Mad Systems way

New Alice® and Lory® technologies

interview by Joe Kleiman

According to Elizabeth Merritt, Director of the Center for the Future of Museums at the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the education sector has pivoted from a “conformed one-size-fits-all model” to personalized learning, where students’ individual needs and interests shape their lesson plans. Within the related fields of interpretation and curation in museums and other cultural attractions, a similar transition is taking place, sometimes through physical media and live facilitators, but often through the implementation of technology as an educational tool. As new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) are embraced, personalized curation begins to take the visitor experience in new directions.

Mad Systems’ team, headquartered in Southern California and led by Tricia Ensing (President and CEO) and Maris Ensing (Founder and Creative Tech Consultant) is a leader in providing custom technological solutions tailored for the specialized needs of owners and designers within cultural attractions. Their signature offering, the QuickSilver® AV ecosystem, is the cornerstone of the AV++® suite. Quicksilver represents a major transformation in AV integration, facilitating personalized visitor experiences while significantly reducing infrastructure requirements. Previous installations include the Missouri Botanical Garden, Crayola IDEAworks traveling exhibition and the Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Honor and Museum.

Mad Systems got its stronghold in the industry through creative exhibitions and unique installations that were rooted in traditional AV. Now, their capabilities transcend those roots as they work closely with facility owners, architects, and exhibit designers to understand the specific challenges and opportunities involved in creating engaging visitor experiences that are sustainable and economically viable. Their AV++ suite provides solutions that create personalized experiences, making each visitor interaction unique and memorable. This approach has created a space for new methods of designing exhibitions that can be inclusive for all.

The whimsical yet sophisticated naming of their system components, inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, reflects their transformative potential as well as the company’s creative ethos. Under the leadership of Maris Ensing, a pioneer in the AV field and known for his disruptive innovations and unconventional problem-solving, Mad’s development team has introduced groundbreaking patented and patent-pending solutions. “We’re updating a 40-year old toolkit,” Ensing says. His outside-the-box style thinking led to three new products within the AV++ space:

Alice® interacting through mobile device
  • CheshireCat® and Alice® are patented and patent- pending technologies, respectively, centered around personalization and interactive engagement. CheshireCat offers high-speed, privacy-centric, recognition-based media delivery, while Alice serves as a dynamic, AI-driven media generator that adapts content in real time to match individual visitor preferences and interests. If a client prefers to not use facial recognition, Alice is flexible and designed to also work with barcode wristbands, QR codes, RFID, and NFC tags.
  • Specifically designed to enhance accessibility and to allow for additional language support, the patented Lory® tour guide system uses a visitor’s personal smart devices to cater to guests with diverse needs or preferences, including those requiring hearing assistance or vision-related support. It also handles multilingual content via headphones or AirPods, ensuring a more inclusive and engaging experience for all visitors. Since Lory can also use QR codes or NFC tags, it is possible to retrofit existing exhibitions.

Previously, InPark Magazine explored QuickSilver and the potential applications of Alice and Lory for the attractions market. The company is currently offering demos of Alice and Lory, providing owners and designers the opportunity to experience them in action first- hand at Mad Systems headquarters and to discuss deployment in new projects. The company also has an active presence at trade events throughout the year.

Interview with Maris Ensing

What are some of the ways the Mad Systems AV++ product line is tailored to the needs of museums and attractions?
Maris Ensing

The cultural sector – comprising museums, visitor centers, and similar institutions – is facing an increasingly complex landscape. Challenges stem from evolving visitor and client demands, the need for innovative communication strategies, and the drive for competitive differentiation. Visitor expectations are also escalating, with a growing demand for memorable, ‘wow’ experiences that cater to a broad demographic spectrum and encourage repeat visitation. Moreover, the rapid pace of technological advancements presents its own set of challenges, including faster redundancy rates for proprietary hardware and the ongoing quest for long-term viable, flexible solutions that can also provide a new generation of options.

We address these multifaceted challenges by taking a revolutionary approach to audiovisual system design in the form of QuickSilver and options for patented CheshireCat, patent-pending Alice, and patented Lory technologies. These technologies offer a myriad of benefits to owners and designers in the cultural sector, promising to redefine and advance the visitor experience through personalization, inclusivity, and adaptability.

This suite of technologies provides a competitive edge. By integrating these advanced AV solutions to help tell their stories and convey their messaging for education and/or entertainment, operators can address the pressing challenges of today’s landscape. They can deliver more engaging, hyper-personalized, and inclusive experiences that not only meet but exceed visitor expectations, fostering sustained interest and encouraging repeat visitation in an increasingly competitive marketplace. This supports other essential goals such as sustaining educational missions, customer resource management (CRM), and meeting return on investment (ROI) targets. Technologies like Alice and Lory make a venue stand out from the crowd and stimulate repeat visits, which can have a significant impact on financial returns while QuickSilver provides a long-term, computer/IT-based solution with a level of flexibility that allows for these new features to be integrated.

Tell us more about the impact on visitor experience and “hyper-personalization.”

Mad Systems is committed to innovation and a proactive approach to technology deployment. We collaborate with clients and designers to ensure that cultural institutions can meet and exceed the evolving expectations of the public, providing tools to help exhibitions engage with visitors in ways that are deeply immersive and hyper-personalized.

Hyper-personalization in terms of what these systems can deliver includes seamless multilingual access and inclusivity for individuals who are hard of hearing, deaf, partially sighted or blind. Hyper-personalized experiences have the capability to instantaneously adapt to the visitor’s preferences, encouraging repeat visitation by providing targeted and changing media to each visitor.

AI image of Lory®

While the technology is very sophisticated, its reliance on standard PC hardware ensures longevity and overcomes obsolescence with flexibility that allows for both wired and wireless installations. Not only that, but since Alice derives personal media from a curated “Body Of Knowledge,” content is forever changing and can easily be kept up to date, encouraging return visits.

In an era where technology and visitor expectations are rapidly evolving, embracing solutions like QuickSilver, CheshireCat, Alice, and Lory offers a path forward for the cultural sector to thrive – to be able to deliver hyper-personalized experiences in a fluid environment that can adapt to both present and future needs.

What is featured in a demo of Alice or Lory? Who should attend these demos?

When you come in for a demonstration, or when we do a demo at your venue, you’ll experience how Alice can deliver hyper- personalized media experiences of depth and adaptability. You’ll check in using a kiosk or your phone (other options are, of course, available) and input basic details such as your age, interests (ranging from art to science to history), preferred language (with a selection from an extensive list that includes European languages, Mandarin, Katakana script, Arabic, Urdu, Tagalog, Russian, and others), level of interest, and preferred delivery style. At that point, Alice leaps into action. Leveraging a meta-tagged media library, it selects or generates hyper- personalized content that aligns with your stated preferences, blending text with suitable imagery or video. We are presently working on a further option to convert this text into speech in the selected language and to create avatars in the form of Virtual Docents to enrich the personalized visitor experience further.

Lory’s capabilities are demonstrated by providing Lory- delivered content on personal devices that are aligned with the main media show in the exhibit or theater, offering different spoken languages, subtitles, and sign language options. This system’s ongoing development aims to extend the range of spoken, written, and video-based sign languages available and to accommodate a large number of simultaneous options, ensuring information accessibility for as broad an audience as possible.

The current incarnations of Alice and Lory suggest what can be achieved in creating exhibitions tailored for modern audiences. We stand ready to deploy these innovative solutions and we invite operators, designers, storytellers, consultants and creatives to come and explore the vast potential of these technologies for setting a new standard in immersive, personalized guest experience in a wide variety of settings. We are prepared to discuss options and implementation possibilities, and we are very enthusiastic about assisting you with this new, vastly expanded AV and media delivery toolkit. Our doors and minds are open. We have something substantial to offer the education and attractions sectors. •

Joe Kleiman
Joe Kleiman
Raised in San Diego on theme parks, zoos, and IMAX films, InPark's Senior Correspondent Joe Kleiman would expand his childhood loves into two decades as a projectionist and theater director within the giant screen industry. In addition to his work in commercial and museum operations, Joe has volunteered his time to animal husbandry at leading facilities in California and Texas and has played a leading management role for a number of performing arts companies. Joe previously served as News Editor and has remained a contributing author to InPark Magazine since 2011. HIs writing has also appeared in Sound & Communications, LF Examiner, Jim Hill Media, The Planetarian, Behind the Thrills, and MiceChat His blog, takes an unconventional look at the attractions industry. Follow on twitter @ThemesRenewed Joe lives in Sacramento, California with his wife, dog, and a ghost.

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