Archive | May, 2012

3 Mics to Turn Your Phone into a Recording Studio

31 May

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!

As we have covered in previous installations of our DIY series, there are quite a few options for getting great production values without spending a fortune on equipment. For getting good audio, the basic elements will always be the same: clear sound source, microphone, cable and recording device.

In this post we’ll take a look at microphones that can transform your phone or tablet into that high-end field recorder without the high-end price tag.

  • Tascam iM2: If you are an iPhone-Pad-Pod user, this would be my top pick for doing any kind of recording. This stereo microphone and preamp combo uses the same mic and hardware as the DR handheld recorders, which are great portable recorders by Tascam. Full level control and adjustable stereo condenser microphones basically make this suitable for any kind of field recording. Plugs directly into the docking bay for a nice stable connection. ($65.00)

  • Tascam iXZ: This also says that it is for the iPhone, but the output is a standard eighth inch plug, which theoretically should be able to work anywhere. This is a microphone preamp, which is very useful if you already have a microphone you like to use. Other than providing an XLR input to connect a microphone, this gives you the ability to change the level of your signal, as well as providing “phantom power” for condenser microphones. ($39.00)

  • iRig Pre: Also formatted for the iPhone, this is basically the same device as the Tascam iXZ, which allows XLR microphone connections, phantom power and level control. This does have a headphone output which is quite helpful, seeing as how the headphone jack of your phone is being used by this device. Also comes with two apps for recording. ($39.00)

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!

How to Create a Demo App in 20 Minutes (for free!)

23 May

A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.

— Steve Jobs

Ok, you love the idea of a mobile app for your organization. You pitch it to your ED and get a mildly positive response. Now you are faced with a decision: Let the idea die – or grab it by the horns and make it a defining project of your career.

Life is short. You go for it.

As Steve Jobs points out in the quote above, one of the best ways to get your Director, Board or staff excited about a mobile app is to show them a real-life demo of your museum app. When you show them a demo with some real content that they can see and play around with, it can light a fire in their mind and get them excited about the potential as you are.

One of the great things about TourSphere is you can actually build and publish a demo app – for free! Here’s a way to do it in less than 30 minutes:

Step 1: Pick two Points of Interest (POI) at your museum or site to feature in your app

Step 2: Create a TourSphere account for free and upload a digital image (make sure you are cleared to use them for this purpose) for each POI. If you already havae audio or video clips about the piece that will make it even flashier – but don’t let it stop you if you don’t.

Step 3: Write 2-4 descriptive sentences about each POI in TourSphere.

Step 4: Hit “Test” and check out your beautiful new app on your smartphone.

You can tweak it and fine-tune it and republish it immediately to see how it looks. Once you’re happy with the way it looks and works, you show up to your next staff meeting, present the demo, pass it around for everyone to oooh and aaaah over… and then you make the business case for your app.

I built this demo app in less than 20 minutes with TourSphere.

Making a Business Case for Mobile Apps in Museums

17 May

Much has been written recently (herehere and here) about museums having a difficult time adopting mobile technology. The consensus seems to be that although everyone agrees mobile guides are awesome and make a lot of sense for museums, the actual adoption of mobile apps in museums has been a bit slow.

Perhaps it is time to make a business case for mobile apps in museums. While it is true that museums do not (and should not) operate as businesses much of the time, there are certain circumstances that might benefit museums to think through problems with the same criteria that businesses do: THE BOTTOM LINE.

Let’s face it, if you can show that a mobile app is either going to make $$ or save $$ then the chances of getting the project funded, approved and launched quickly is exponentially higher.

So here are 7 business considerations for determining if  a mobile app makes sense for your museum (for the purposes of this post I am going to refer to visitors as “customers”):

  1. Replace an expensive audio guide contract: Does your museum have a contract in place that is currently costing thousands of dollars per year in licensing, equipment maintenance, or staff time? If so, switching an old audio guide into a mobile app may save LOTS of money in the long run.
  2. Lower demands on staff: If your app can answer questions (i.e. “Where are the restrooms?”), cut down on the staffing needs (consider cutting back on the number of live tours given daily) or ease the burden on your staff, then guess what? You are saving your organization $$.
  3. Increase the time customers spend at your museum: The longer each customer spends in your “store” (museum) the more revenue you are likely to generate – via eating onsite at museum cafes, shopping in the museum store, etc.
  4. Generate buzz among customers: If customers have an exceptionally good experience, they tell their friends about it, the tweet it, post and ultimately they act as evangelists for your museum.
  5. Mobile Apps engage those elusive 25-35 year-olds: How many meetings have you sat through where the topic of an aging donor base has come up?  If you can engage them now, they will grow up to be your future donors and patrons.
  6. Increase Memberships and/or Donations: By providing a link to your membership or donation page within your mobile app you are providing users with a way to directly support your organization monetarily. Including it in your app allows customers to make a donation even after they leave your site.
  7. In-App Surveys allow for direct visitor feedback: It’s expensive (and invasive) to have people milling about your museum with clipboards in hands asking visitors questions.  If your app can do this on-going you will have a better data set and won’t have to pay extra for it.
Have you tried to make a business case for mobile in your museum? Was it successful? Chime in with your thoughts and opinions.

Photo (C) 2009 Andreas C Randow

Murder Goes Mobile at the Met!

11 May

Murder at the Met

What do Madame X, a murder, and a mobile phone have in common? They are all part of Murder at the Museum: An American Art Mystery, the first mobile detective game created by The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The app was built on TourSphere and produced by Green Door Labs.

Through the smartphone app, Met visitors are transported back in time to 1899, where they are attending an evening gala and are shocked to learn of the murder of Virginie Gautreau–who has since been immortalized in the painting Madame X by John Singer Sargent. Thanks to the app, every visitor becomes a detective, using their smartphones to explore museum objects and interview suspects and witnesses to unearth the killer, his or her weapon, the place of the murder, and the killer’s motive.

This game is built 100% on the TourSphere mobile app builder platform and is an amazing example of the flexibility and power of the TourSphere mobile platform.  Thanks to TourSphere, the Met was able to create one murder mystery game that works on all smartphone platforms, instead of  developing individual apps for the iPhone®, Android®, and Windows®.

For more visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Official site.

It’s ALIVE! Meet the App Builder 2.0!

3 May

At TourSphere our mission is to make beautiful, smart mobile apps affordable and accessible to all museums, parks, gardens, hotels and cities.  After lots of testing, listening, debating and many, many hours of engineering magic we’re thrilled to announce the release of our App Builder 2.0.

It’s completely redesigned, re-thought, and rehashed – and we’re really excited with the result.  We think this is the fastest and most powerful way to build visitor-based apps. Our new App Builder features an entirely new, intuitive interface.  It is so easy to use that if you can use Facebook, you can build a mobile app on TourSphere.

In addition to redesigning the entire look and feel of our App Builder, here are some of the new features we’ve added:

  • New themes for even slicker-looking apps
  • Easier, more intuitive text editing
  • More robust user analytics and visitor survey tools
  • A batch uploader tool – so you can uploads tons of files at once

We’ve also launched our new website. For a 60-second video on TourSphere, check out

TourSphere Website 2.0

We think all kinds of cool places are going to be introduced to a new way to think about mobile apps for their visitors when they use TourSphere. Come check out the new TourSphere and give us a free test drive!

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