Archive | March, 2012

Is that a studio in your pocket? (or “awesome apps for audio”)

30 Mar

This post is part of a series of “do it yourself” articles by Glenn Forsythe, Chief Soundscape Architect here at TourSphere. We hope you find it helpful when creating your own audio and video content!

Are you creating an audio tour or recording some audio interviews? I have good news! You need look no further than your inside pocket for a completely portable, high-quality recording device. In this post we’ll compare a few apps that can transform your phone into a your very own recording studio. (yay for technology that saves money!)

First, let’s talk about what you need in a recording app:

  1. For serious recording you should always record in an uncompressed format (.wav or PCM) and a sampling rate of at least 44.1khz. Don’t worry if this sounds too techie here, just put this on your checklist when choosing your recording app.
  2. Another basic feature that’s super helpful in recording is the pause button. You’d be surprised how many free apps out there left out the pause button in their design… it really helps! This way you can just hit “pause” instead of creating a new audio file every time you stop recording (which can get very messy in long recording sessions).
  3. The last and apparently hardest to find feature for a recording app is a nice set of level meters. Good levels are the  most critical feature for good recording quality. You NEED to monitor your input recording level.

Here’s a quick list of a few recording apps worth checking out:

PCM Recorder (Droid/Free): Very basic, but produces quality recordings. Allows sampling rates up to 48khz, which is great for recording audio for video.


Virtual Recorder (Droid/Free): I love that this app uses an old tape machine design for the interface. This app has many key features you want: pause recording, level meters, level boost and though it is fixed , it does have a good sampling rate.


Audio Recorder Machine (Droid/$3.96)This has all of the base features as Virtual Recorder but for a few bucks you can get a much slicker interface with an improved file management and sharing design.

Blue FiRe (iPhone/Free) Though lacking level monitoring, this is still a pretty straightforward free recording app for the iphone that produces high quality WAV or AIFF files.


FiRe Field Recorder (iPhone/$5.99) This app is by far the most complete package for recording. With a feature list longer than this post, it’s still very intuitive and easy to use. This would be worth spending a few bucks on if you want to expand your options and have an interface that gives you a more pleasant recording experience.

So there you have it, any of these apps will get the job done.  Next up, I’ll be sharing my list of preferred mics to pair with a smartphone app to give your organization the crisp, polished sound quality that will leave sound nerds wondering what recording studio you use.

Do you have any secret tips for great recording on a budget? Please share! And let me know if you have any questions about recording your own audio and video!

Bringing Stories to Life makes Ed Rodley Happy to be Alive

23 Mar

This interview is part of our “Thought Leader” series, where we get inside the heads of the best and brightest in the museum & technology world.

Ed Rodley

Exhibit Developer @ Museum of Science, Boston

Ed was born, went to school, started working at a museum. He’s still at it and is showing no signs of stopping anytime soon.

TourSphere: What was a stand-out museum/exhibit that caught your interest this year?

Ed: I wish I’d gotten down to see Infinite Variety in New York during the week it was up. The pictures of the Armory full of towering cylinders and curves of red and white quilts took my breath away. I can only imagine what it must’ve been like to be in the space. Degas and the Nude @ MFA was the best exhibition I actually saw in 2011. It combined great art with a compelling narrative, deep curatorial knowledge, and the mobile tour that went with the show was impressive. It was the best, most seamless blending of mobile with physical I’ve seen.

TourSphere: What was the coolest use of technology you saw in a museum in 2011?

Ed: I don’t tend to think that way, which is a bit ironic given my position and institution, but there you have it. The exhibits I’ve seen this year that have made me go “Wow…” have almost always incorporated computational power in ways that aren’t obvious. Like my colleague who has made a MIDI-controlled Tesla coil that plays creepy loud music. It’s a computer exhibit, but the computer is just a tool to get the job done.

TourSphere: Is there an app or a technology that has changed the way you do things or made your job easier this year?

Ed: Twitter has been a major part of my professional workflow for years, and I continue to be amazed at how central it has become. I use it to search for information, communicate with colleagues around the world, trend spot. It’s a godsend. This year in particular I have been loving my productivity apps like Evernote and Dropbox. Keeping my files accessible across multiple machines and OSs is vital to me.

TourSphere: Apple or Android?

Ed: I own an iPhone, but I’m rooting for HTML 5 and responsive web design to throw a wrench into the Apple/Android shouting match. Given the success of sites like and others to deliver really rich mobile experiences, I think 2012 is going to be an interesting year.

TourSphere: If you had to sum up what you think the theme for museums in 2012 will be in one word, what would your prediction be?

Ed: Relevance.

TourSphere: What do you see as the biggest challenge for museums in the coming years?

Ed: Making the case for museums in the 21st century. What can we contribute to society in the 21st century that makes us worth supporting?

TourSphere: Is there something you are passionate about in the museum world that you would like to wax philosophical about or rant about?

Ed: Heh. That’s why I blog, to get out all the ranting and raving in more socially valuable ways. I am a story teller, and anything that involves bringing stories to life makes me happy to be alive. Weaving objects and experiences into narratives that visitors can construct for themselves as they go along gives me a thrill, every time.

Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts with us, Ed!  Keep up with Ed and his insights at:

Site: Thinking About Exhibits
If you’re in the Boston area keep an eye out for Ed’s “Drinking About Museums” events.  They’re wicked fun!

5 Reason to have a Survey in Your Mobile App

21 Mar

It still surprises me that many museums and organizations don’t put surveys or questionnaires in their app.

Here are 5 reasons a short survey is a must-have in a mobile app:

  1. $$$ – Grants, Grants, Grants!  Most of our clients who fund their app through a grant are required to provide metrics and survey results.
  2. Feedback – It’s a non-intrusive, golden opportunity to get feedback directly from your visitors.  Why would you pass this opportunity up? For example, if people keep commenting in the survey that the restrooms are hard to find, you can take action and improve the signage. Demands on museum staff go down and everyone’s life (yours and your visitors) is a little better.
  3. Long-term Engagement – With TourSphere you can include Email Opt-in as part of your survey at no additional charge.  By letting visitors subscribe instantly to your newsletter you are building that coveted long-term relationship with your visitors.
  4. Demographic Knowledge – The more you know about your visitors, the more targeted your programing and marketing can be.  Including some simple demographic questions in your survey is a great way to find out who’s visiting you – and why.
  5. Measuring Success – Unlike traditional media, mobile apps provide a way of measuring results. If you find out that 95% of visitors using your mobile app love their museum experience but only 75% of non-app users love their museum experience… well, you have a strong case for expanding the mobile programing (plus you can brag about it come employee evaluation time).
With TourSphere, you can include a multi-question survey at no additional  charge and can log-in to your account to see the answers in real time.

Can Do… Can Do… How to Start a Game Project.

13 Mar

Guest Blogger:  Kellian Adams

Kellian Adams has worked on over a hundred games with institutions across the US and Europe including the Smithsonian, the Met and the Science Museum of London. She was the senior producer, the director of the museums division of SCVNGR and now runs Green Door Labs, a gaming studio that focuses on games for culture and education.

Today I was proud to be on a panel for a really cool workshop on play at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

It was a great concept with some amazingly talented people but it’s interesting to me that when we get together to talk about games, how easy it is to get caught up in talk of what we CAN’T do when we’re concepting out games.

– We can’t build a totally new app for a one-day project

– We can’t have people running through spaces

– We can’t let people touch things

– We can’t build too close to the traffic on Mass Ave.

– We can’t give people permission to run amok

These are all true and very valid points. The trouble is that play is sort of an open, ambiguous idea… so when you START with the things that you can’t do, the options of things that you can’t do are just limitless. You could list impossibilities forever. Then you get so discouraged that you just forget about it and move on.

One thing I can tell you for certain that you really CAN’T do is that you can’t possibly predict all the ways that people could think of to break the rules.   And you CAN’T really predict all the types of technical obstacles that you’ll run into until you start testing things. That’s why it’s best to start with what you CAN do, because you usually find that the list is considerably shorter and more manageable.

Rather than starting with an idea (“I would like an Angry Birds Game for the Audubon Society but I don’t have developers or funding or staff resources”), start by listing your resources and see what kind of a project you CAN build with what you have.

For instance:

Where CAN you play? Only in the lobby? No problem! Work with a lobby game.

Where CAN you find help? Short of staff? College volunteers love to work building games. Maybe you have a resource of high school teachers or professors who can find you interns for a week or two.

What platforms DO you have? No money to build a unique app? Try running a paper game, a text game or an ARG. If you’re a TourSphere museum, TS is actually a great platform for story games.

What are your community resources? Moms? Knitters? Belly Dancers? Girl Scouts? Lumberjacks? You can always find creative ways to make use of local communities and everyone wants to play!

What stories CAN you tell? Every cultural space has game-worthy stories. Everyone knows that truth is stranger than fiction!

So again, I reiterate, start backwards. Not “what do I want to build?” and “what could derail me?” but “what do I already have?” and “what could I possibly build with these resources?”  When you make the decision that you want to build a game and your resources come first, you’ll know where you need to fill in the blanks and suddenly you’ll find that things fall into place more easily.

Happy building!

Thanks for the awesome advice, Kellian! Questions about location games and gamification? Feel free to leave a comment here or talk to Kellian directly at:



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