Archive | October, 2012

Hotel Apps and “Mobile Concierge” Services

30 Oct

In this hyper-connected age where seemingly everyone has a smartphone or tablet, hotels and resorts want to serve guests on the go. Luckily, TourSphere can help. TourSphere provides hotels with the tools they need to create hotel apps and virtual concierge services for their guests, whether they’re at the hotel or at home preparing for their trip.

By adding a mobile app to their marketing mix, hotels and resorts can give guests a look at the premises right on their mobile phones. From information about the hotel’s amenities, such as pool or spa hours, and multimedia slideshows with colorful photos to maps that can orient guests and interesting historical information or facts, an app become like a “concierge in the pocket”.


In addition, by adding a mobile app to their marketing mix, resorts have the opportunity to provide a multitude of benefits to guests including:

  • Potential visitors can check out rooms before they book by using virtual tours that they can view from the palm of their own hand.
  • Allow guests to plan their stay before they arrive. Add your hotel’s restaurant or spa on the mobile app so guests can view the menu, make reservations, or schedule treatments as they travel to your locale.
  • Let the TourSphere app answer common guest questions, like the events for the day or where the pool is located. It’s like each guest has their own personal concierge!
  • Orient your visitor with street smart maps that integrate with Google Maps, pointing your guests to local points of interest and seamlessly providing directions.
  • Let the guests provide their feedback on-the-go. Gather real-time analytics about your guests’ experience at your hotel so you can continually improve it.

Many hotels and resorts have seen the value that a mobile app can bring them. Check out how one hotel, The Mountain View Grand, uses TourSphere’s mobile app to serve their guests.

Try it out today on the TourSphere Builder, which allows interested parties to take a free test drive to play around with features and build a mock-up of how the app will look. Then, when you’re ready to implement, you can take it live and give guests the royal virtual treatment!

Explore the Mary Baker Eddy Library’s 3-story Globe on Your Smartphone

26 Oct

Mary Baker Eddy founded the Christian Science system of religious thought in the late 1800s and today, her life’s work is celebrated at the Mary Baker Eddy Library. This multi-use facility is dedicated to educating the public about Eddy’s life and ideas. The museum, research center and lending library opened in 2002 and now a TourSphere app enhances the public’s experience with the Library.

For those who can’t make it to the Mary Baker Eddy Library in downtown Boston, there are two virtual tours (with many more to come). A short, yet information-packed video brings to life the role children played in the history and founding of the Christian Science Church in Boston. Complete with historic photos, period details and artifacts, the video captures what life was like for the “busy bee” children involved in the creation of the Mother’s Room at the original Christian Science Church in Boston.

The other exhibit allows virtual visitors to explore Mary Baker Eddy’s study, where she worked tirelessly during her life. One part of the virtual tour lets you learn more about the objects found in the study by clicking on them for a detailed photo and explanation of their purpose. The video that accompanies this exhibit explores Mary Baker Eddy’s life as an avid writer and voracious reader.

Whether visitors are planning a visit to the Mary Baker Eddy Library or just want to learn more about this historic site, the TourSphere app brings it to life.

To view the mobile tour of the Mary Baker Eddy Library, visit http://mbelibrary.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

To view the mobile tour of the Mary Baker Eddy Library, visit http://mbelibrary.toursphere.com
or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

The Freedom Center’s Richard Cooper on the Future of Museums and the Role Technology Will Play

22 Oct

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.

Richard Cooper

Manager of Interpretive Services

Richard C. Cooper is the Manager of Interpretive Services at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center where he oversees the development and presentation of the overall interpretive, educational strategies used with the general public in the exhibit galleries to include guided tours, demonstrations, self-guided activities, and first & third-person interpretation. He also actively works with the Exhibits and Collections departments to develop the interpretation of traveling exhibitions. Rich came to the Freedom Center in the capacity of Interpretive Services Coordinator where he was in charge of maintaining the day-to-day operations of the Interpretive Services program within the museum’s 158,000 square foot facility that opened in 2004. Rich received his B.A. in American History from the University of Cincinnati.  He is currently attending Northern Kentucky University to obtain a Masters Degree in Public History.

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

Rich: Wow…There so many outstanding museums out there today that I have visited this year.  But, if I have to pick…I will settle for two – the Indiana Historical Society in Indianapolis, Indiana and the City Museum in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Indiana Historical Society has become outstanding at bringing history to life in a whole new way in their experiences called You Are There.  In these experiences they recreate historical pictures from Indiana’s past and allow for visitors to step into those scenes.  The City Museum is probably one of the most exciting museums I have ever visited.  Both young and old have the chance to crawl through amazing caves, and see creative pieces of recycled/repurposed architectural and industrial objects within their collection.  Check out this Museum Minute post to see a blog written by a colleague of mine, Jamie Glavic (@MuseumMinute) and videos I created from inside the City Museum.

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

Rich: I would have to say MOMA Unadulterated at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  They created a wonderful tour where children actually interpret art through their eyes.  In the field of interpretation, we are always searching and creating new ways for visitors to become participants in the story.  This new tour having children interpret the art through their eyes takes this idea of visitor participation to a whole new level for the field.

TourSphere: Did your museum do something this year(or have something coming up soon) that you are especially proud of/ excited about?

Rich: This summer the Freedom Center opened a terrific changing exhibition called Music of Change: Hymns, Blues, & Rock.  The exhibition has challenged and inspired visitors to recognize the power of music and how it is used in their own lives to express camaraderie in connection with social movements and attitudes.  The exhibition was created by the Freedom Center Curator, Dina Bailey (@NURFCDina) and graduate students at Northern Kentucky University.  The exhibition is open to the public until September 22, 2012.  The Freedom Center mobile tour app available via web app and in the Apple App store has a selection of music that helps to bring Music of Change to life for visitors as they travel through the exhibition.

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

Rich: ….Twitter.  I have to admit, that I am fairly new to Twitter.  But it is incredible.  It has enabled me to expand the interpretation of the Freedom Center.  It has also allowed for me to interact with other professionals in weekly conversations around numerous topic in the museum and education fields.  I have made it a personal goal to tweet about a major topic that relates to the mission of the Freedom Center on a daily basis.

TourSphere: Apple or Android (or other)?

Rich: I am absolutely an Apple person.  I have everything from an iMac, iPhone, iPad, to a MacBook Pro in my collection of electronics.  I think Apple has done a wonderful job of linking all their devices through iCloud.  It makes it easier to start a project on one device and quickly pick it up on another device and continue the project where you left off.  However, I still love my basic Kindle too.

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?

Rich: I would have to go with “Participatory.”  I think the field is continuing to find new ways for visitors both inside and beyond the walls of institutions to fully participant with our museums.  You can see this throughout the field as more museums are developing apps, learning how to utilize social media, allowing for visitors and communities to create exhibits, employing radical trust, and broadening our reach to include more diversity in the themes we cover.   Creating these types of experiences will allow for more audiences both young and old from diverse backgrounds to feel truly a part of our great museums.

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

Rich: Great Question.  I would say that financial stability will remain a major topic throughout the field.  I think this will also lead to more museums talking about “mergers.”  The Freedom Center and the Cincinnati Museum Center just announced the merger of our two great institutions to help strengthen the financial stability of both institutions.  This model could be used by other museums across the nation as budgets, and funding continue to tighten over the next couple of years.

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

Rich: The only thing I might rant about is that I highly encourage everyone to remember that interpretation is the key.  Without good interpretation, a project will not be as successful as it could be.  You could have the coolest piece of new technology, but after a while, without good interpretation, the project will not reach its potential.  Technology is just an avenue to help bring the interpretation to life.

I highly encourage everyone to check out the new AASLH Educators & Interpreters Blog at and the Museum Minute Blog at I contribute to both blogs.

Rich, thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights!  You continue to challenge and inspire us!

Keep up with Rich here: 

Twitter: @NURFCRich

Check out the NURFC App – freedom.toursphere.com (web app) or in the Apple Store Android Marketplace.

Beantown Mysteries on the Harbor

19 Oct

Want to get the inside story on where the Departed was filmed? Or check out old images of how Boston used to look? If you’re local to Boston, you’ve probably explored the Boston harbor either by sea, or walking along the water and enjoying the beautiful breezy views. But, for those tourists looking to visit the area, or even locals looking to dig deeper, the new TourSphere app from The Boston Harbor Association gives visitors an inside view to the city’s best virtually private walking tour right from their phone.

Boston HarborWalk’s new TourSphere app gives visitors the inside scoop on all things Boston Harbor.  Visitors can take advantage of a virtually private walking tour through some of the most enigmatic and charming neighborhoods in Boston, starting at the Intercontinental Hotel. Tourists can preview restaurants, shops and museums along the water’s edge before even traveling from their own hometowns. They can meet local artists and hear unique perspectives right from the comfort of their own phone. Bostonians themselves can utilize the app to learn more about the neighborhoods they stroll through everyday, by exploring buildings, history, culture and even close-ups of what lies below the water!

The TourSphere app allows people near and far to explore some of the most entertaining stories and historical perspectives that the city has to offer. Through this new virtual channel, Boston HarborWalk brings the local sites and stories right to your phone!

To view the mobile tour of the Boston HarborWalk, visit
http://harborwalk.toursphere.com
or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

Creating an Award-Winning Mobile App

16 Oct

After all the hard work you’ve put into developing your app, it’d be nice to get a little recognition, right? As the app landscape has exploded over the past several years, so have mobile app awards programs. At TourSphere, we’ve seen many of our clients win awards in their respective industries for fantastic apps that they’ve developed using our platform.

There’s nothing that inspires creativity than seeing what other great apps have to offer, so we thought we’d give you a taste of some of the awards TourSphere apps have won.

So how do you win one of these awards? Our biggest recommendation to you is to check out what’s available for awards in your industry and to get out there and apply for them. Spread the word about what your organization is doing that’s innovative, both within your industry and in general, with your mobile app and digital program.

If you’re building an app and would like to apply for a mobile app award yourself, here are a few you can check out!

  • The Webby Awards: Includes categories like Best Use of GPS or Location Technology, Best Use of Mobile Video and Integrated Mobile Experience
  • Digiday Mobi Awards: Honors overall excellence and breakthrough achievement in mobile media, marketing and advertising.
  • Media & Technology MUSE Awards: Recognizes outstanding achievement in museum media.

Share with us: What are the app awards in your industry?

Got a Hankering for Bad Art? Look No Further Than Your Mobile Phone

12 Oct

Art museums are easily accessible for art enthusiasts in every major US city. But, where do you look when you need to get your fix of bad art? Massachusetts’s own Museum of Bad Art is located in the basement of Somerville’s Davis Square Theater, but thanks to their new TourSphere mobile app, their tens of thousands of Facebook fans and email subscribers will now be able to view the bad works of art from their mobile device.

The Museum of Bad Art (MOBA) has three brick and mortar galleries in the Boston area as well as an online gallery. Visitors can peruse the world’s only museum dedicated to celebrating bad art. But, for those that can’t make the trip, the TourSphere app allows visitors visibility into the worst that art has to offer. Along with the peculiar images, the mobile  app provides short and humorous narrations of each of the pieces of art.

MOBA and TourSphere will launch the mobile app and MOBA’s latest exhibit, “99% Inspiration + 1% Perspiration = No Sweat” at a special event on October 17 at 7pm, in the Museum of Bad Art’s Somerville Theater location. For more information about this event, which is open to the public, visit: http://www.museumofbadart.org/99inspiration.php.

To view the mobile tour of the Museum of Bad Art exhibit, visit http://moba.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

To view the mobile tour of the Museum of Bad Art exhibit, visit http://moba.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

Local Publishers: Selling Ads for Mobile

9 Oct

Publishing isn’t an easy road in 2012. At TourSphere, we speak to lots of publishers looking to diversify their revenue streams, provide more robust advertising options and provide different products for their  readership. In fact, eMarket predicts that mobile ad spending for 2012 will hit $2.6 billion — 80% more than the spend in 2011.

One area that local publishers are finding cost-effective is creating mobile tours that align with the content of their local newspapers, magazines or tourism publications. By providing this accompanying mobile tour, publishers can highlight advertisers, special events or locations around town — and can be appealing to both regular readers and tourists, depending on the content in the app.

But how to best monetize this type of app? With advertising, of course. A mobile tour app that accompanies a newspaper or magazine has the advantage of having a built-in stable of advertisers, but how do you convince those advertisers that adding to their package with mobile makes sense?

If you’re putting together your mobile advertising media kit, we’ve got some great statistics and ideas for you to include.

  • Mobile offers multimedia opportunities. Because TourSphere is equipped to include photos, audio and video, you can create a multimedia ad for your advertiser. Promoting a local restaurant? Geo-locate them directly on your interactive map and do a one-minute video interview with the chef. That is powerful advertising.
  • Mobile offers measurability and feedback. Through a TourSphere app, your advertiser can get customer feedback, or just check out the analytics of the app to see exactly who is utilizing it and from where. The visibility and measurability is a standout trait of mobile advertising.
  • Mobile puts you where the customer is. According to TMP Marketing and Comscore, 75% of mobile searches have local intent, and 37% of local mobile searchers visit the advertiser. A Texterity study showed that 40% of mobile users have made a purchase as a result of a mobile ad, and XAd shows that 52% of mobile ads result in a phone call.
  • Mobile demands immediate action. Mobile Marketer recently found that mobile coupons get 10 times the redemption rate of traditional coupons. And while 70% of online searchers will take action on an ad within a month, 70% of mobile searchers will take action within an hour.

Are you selling mobile advertising? What are your selling secrets?

Explore Three Decades of Social Issues via Your Mobile Phone

5 Oct

Image Credit: Carrie Mae Weems.

Try fitting in three decades of stunning visual work in just three months! Presently, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts is displaying the socially conscious career of Carrie Mae Weems, with over 200 powerful images, video, audio and text displays. Carrie’s thought-provoking works make anyone ponder today’s current social issues from race, gender and class to equality and social justice. The exhibit, Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video runs now through January 13, 2013.

The digital, interactive nature of Carrie Mae Weems exhibition lends itself to mobile integration. Now, visitors planning their trip to the Frist Center, or those that might not make it before January, have the opportunity to peruse through the multitude of projects right from their mobile device. By viewing the same videos and images on display at the museum, visitors can engage from any location. Frist’s Toursphere app also has an exclusive behind the scenes look at the exhibition selection and installation.

With this exhibit at the Frist Center being the first of five stops, the Frist Center turned this static exhibit into a more accessible destination for all that want to explore the insightful artwork of Carrie Mae Weems.

To view the mobile tour of the Carrie Mae Weems exhibit, visit http://frist.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

To view the mobile tour of the Carrie Mae Weems exhibit, visit http://frist.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

Virtual Visitors vs. On-Site Visitors: Which Should Your App Cater To?

2 Oct

Thanks to mobile apps and virtual tours, armchair tourism has become an increasingly appealing option for many. Whether it’s a matter of checking out something that we might not have the time, inclination or money to visit in person or previewing a possible tourist attraction, museum, hotel, or city before we visit, the virtual tours allow us inside access to make decisions or even have a virtual experience without ever setting foot on-site.

But which type of visitor are you serving, and how can you make your mobile app most appealing to that sector? When deciding whether to gear your tour towards virtual or on-site visitors, consider your mission:

  • Access Far & Wide: Are you a museum looking to give access to a specific exhibit to the largest number of people possible? Then perhaps gear your mobile app towards a tour of your site that can also be easily understood and appreciated by the virtual visitor.
  • Education for Visitors: If your site doesn’t have live tour guides or you are looking to give people alternatives while still engaging and educating them, gear your tour towards those who will be on-site, creating a guide that will draw them into the physical aspects of your location.
  • Information at a Distance: So much information is available online to help potential students to decide which college campuses to tour, for example. If your goal is to provide the information people need to assess your property or offerings without forcing them to buy a plane ticket and stay in a hotel, gear your tour towards virtual visitors and give them a complete view of what you have to offer that will make them feel as though they’ve been there.
  • Marketing: For many hotels or tourism boards, drawing visitors on-site is the main goal. It’s about getting the booking or bringing a visitor to the city, and what better way than to provide a virtual tour that allows access to your top attractions or features? Provide a tour that’s geared towards a virtual visitor with an eye for them wanting to learn more or visit for themselves.

There are a few features you may want to consider when designing your mobile app, depending on whether you’re gearing it towards on-site or virtual visitors.

For On-Site Visitors:

  • GPS-Enabled Maps: Orient visitors quickly and clearly by creating a custom map of your site. The GPS feature on their phones will allow them to get around and find the features they want to visit most.
  • Surveys: An on-site visitor is a valuable opportunity to collect data. Integrate surveys into your app to provide your staff with feedback and ideas for improvement.
  • Audio Guides: Your visitors are lucky in that by being on-site, they can see your exhibit, sites, and more. But they may be missing out on the personalized overview that a live tour guide would offer. Fill the void by providing audio guidance directly through their phones.

virtual tourist

 

For Virtual Visitors:

  • Multimedia: One of the great options within a TourSphere app is the ability to add photos, videos and audio. This provides the virtual visitor with an immediate connection to your site and the experience of being there.
  • Visitor Information: If you’re using the app to draw people to your location, include easy to access visitor information that allows them to plan their trip or visit while they’re excited about your content within the app.
  • Analytics: Web-based apps like TourSphere’s allow you to access valuable analytics on those visiting your app so you can see where your virtual visitor base is and what types of marketing steps you might be able to take to further expand and engage your base.
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