Archive | November, 2012

Warm Up from Anywhere with Miami: An Insider’s Walking Tour

29 Nov

Dreaming of a beach vacation as the snow flurries start up and the temperatures drop? If you’re booking a ticket to the caliente winter destination of Miami, or if you just want to hide from the driving snow by dreaming about such a vacation, Miami: An Insider’s Walking Tour, powered by TourSphere, will give you the local’s view on some of the city’s hottest landmarks and most interesting stories.

Appropriately narrated by Claudia, a half-El Savadorean, half-Hatian bikini model, the audio tour leads you through the city step by step. Check out the site of the infamous Chainsaw scene from Scarface, then lighten the mood at the famous Wet Willie’s, where Claudia walks you through guzzling down one of their delicious, fruity, frozen cocktails.

Aside from Claudia’s narration and her insight on the sites and sounds of Miami Beach, the tour will provide you with local music and interviews with the city’s movers and shakers. From hot spots where “Miami Vice” filmed to famous art museums, the Insider’s Walking Tour allows tourists to get a more in-depth appreciation for the city for free and on their own time.

To view the Mobile Tour Miami: An Insider’s Walking Tour, visit http://miami.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

To view the Mobile Tour Miami: An Insider’s Walking Tour, visit http://miami.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

No Cell Service or Wi-Fi? No Problem.

26 Nov

TourSphere apps are web-based, which means that they require either cell service or wi-fi so that the user can download and use the app live at the site of the tour. We have many clients, like parks or sites with bad cell phone service, who ask us if there are any options for them to use a TourSphere app. Our answer? Of course! When your site has no cell service or wi-fi, there are three options to consider.

Create a Native iPhone and/or Android App

The advantage of native iPhone and Android apps is that they are downloaded onto a mobile device as bundled content, and don’t require the streaming that a web app requires. This means once they’re downloaded onto the user’s phone, he or she can utilize the full-featured app no matter what type of service or wi-fi is available. In fact, we can actually convert your TourSphere app into an Android or iPhone app to accommodate sites with no wi-fi or cell service.

While this seems like the perfect solution for our clients without cell service or wi-fi, there are a few disadvantages to this option. Apps with audio and video can take up a lot of space on a mobile device. Plus, they require the user to plan ahead, which is a gamble. If the visitor doesn’t check your website to discover you have an app available, they may miss the opportunity to use it, because it won’t be accessible on-site. Finally, choosing either an iPhone or Android app can make your app unavailable to those users without that particular device, where a web app is accessible to all users with web-enabled devices.

Provide On-Site Devices for Users

Many museums and tourist sites provide iPod Touches or iPads for their visitors and pre-load their iPhone app onto the device. These devices are then either loaned or rented to visitors. Providing pre-loaded devices solves the planning issue for visitors, since they can arrive on site with nothing on their phone and still access the app via a borrowed device. This can also provide a stream of revenue for your site, if you choose to charge for the rentals. By providing the pre-loaded app on a device, you can enhance the visitor experience for every visitor instead of just those with access to your app via their own device.

However, providing hardware has its cons as well. There is a significant up-front cost to buying hardware to lend to your museum visitors. There’s also a staff burden in keeping the devices maintained and updated, as well as keeping track of the devices once they’re loaned out. Finally, the staff needs to make sure that they update each device individually when there is any update to the iPhone app, which can be time-consuming.

In 2013, TourSphere will be introducing a solution to this issue by providing a new native app publishing method for on-site devices. This solution will allow for remote and automatic app updates, reducing staff time spent maintaining the apps.

iPad Kiosks

The third option for museums and tourism sites that don’t have wi-fi or cell service is to put the tour directly into exhibits and on-site with iPad Kiosks. Traditionally, kiosks are extremely expensive pieces of hardware, but by building a TourSphere app for an iPad and mounting it directly into the exhibit, you’ve created the same opportunity for learning and information as an app on the user’s mobile device, but don’t require the user to access the information on their own phone.

iPad Kiosks basically provide a touch-screen display at a minimal price as compared to a traditional kiosk. The app can also be locked so that users can only view what’s available to them and not surf the Internet or access other programs. While the tour is not in the hand of the user, it provides an excellent and low-maintenance way of providing interactive, engaging information for your exhibit.

If you’re interested in web apps but don’t have wi-fi or cell service on site, contact the TourSphere team for additional information about your options.

 

Features to Include in Your Hotel’s Mobile App

20 Nov

By nature, most people staying at a hotel are in a place that’s entirely new to them. Since what seems like the dawn of time, travelers have relied on the recommendations of concierges in making decisions about the area and getting oriented within the hotel or resort itself. In recent years, web searches have started to play a large part in people’s travel plans, and the advent of browsers in mobile phones makes it even easier for travelers to quickly make decisions about what they want to do when staying at a hotel. But what if you could combine the best of both worlds: provide your on-site concierge’s expertise to your guests, even those who would rather do the research on their phones?

Many hotels, hostels and resorts have begun implementing mobile apps to help act as virtual concierges for their guests. At TourSphere, we’ve seen everyone from historic hotels like the Mountain View Grand to trendy hostel’s like Boston’s 40Berkeley implement mobile tour apps to help their guests get around. If you’re considering a mobile app for your hotel, hostel or resort, we’ve got a list of features you should include!

  • A map of the property: TourSphere allows you to easily create an interactive map that can help orient your guests to your property and even to nearby points of interest.
  • Frequently requested must-sees: Whether it’s recommended restaurants or  nearby sites, add them to your interactive map and create informational icons that give visitors the low-down on the spot, including menus, hours and more.
  • Event calendar: Because TourSphere apps are web-based, you can update them on a constant basis and the update immediately pushes into the app. Add events within your own hotel and those in the surrounding tourist area so guests can be tuned in at the touch of a button.
  • Special property features: Whether your hotel has a special local art exhibit or just some fantastic historical features, be sure to include images, video, audio, or written explanation. This will help identify the unique aspects of your hotel and make the stay memorable for the guest.

We want to hear from you! What features are must-haves for any hotel, hostel or resort app that you’d want to use?

History and Technology: A Perfect Marriage

16 Nov

Newport, Rhode Island is known as an iconic location filled with historical nods to the past, through the mansions lining the coast, historic meeting houses and buildings downtown, as well as its role in the American Revolution. The Newport Historical Society has married its love and dedication to history, with technology, by providing visitors a TourSphere mobile app to explore Historic Newport.

The Newport Historical Society is dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing items from Newport’s past. Their mobile app allows the public to peruse news, events, offerings and resources and take a step back in time. Guests can also virtually visit the Museum and Gift Shop through their phone. The app, sponsored by a local Real Estate Company, is a great example of monetizing a mobile app and providing a local company great exposure to their target audience. We’ve got some more helpful tips on this topic here.

This season, The Newport Historical Society has lots to talk about! December 1st marks the beginning of the Holiday season, with their Open House event, and proceeding Holiday Lantern Tours. Next week, the Newport Mansions also debut their holiday look, with festive decorations that are not to be missed. So, first check out the mobile app and then plan your visit to historical Newport this season!

To view the Mobile Tour of The Newport Historical Society visit http://newport.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

To view the Mobile Tour of The Newport Historical Society visit http://newport.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

Exploring Estates Around New England: 5 Venues to Visit This Season

13 Nov

Around New England, there is a plethora of historic homes, estates and museums to check out for locals and tourists alike. At TourSphere, we love exploring both the well-known and hidden gems around our area. Today, we’ve decided to share some of our favorite estates around New England, picked out especially for you to enjoy during the upcoming holiday season!

Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House

A cozy little “estate”, just outside of Boston, MA, the Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House is the setting for the well-known novel, Little Women. Visit this historical venue, where Louisa May Alcott both wrote and used as a setting for her book. When walking through the rooms, you’ll find the majority of furnishings and setting just as it was when the Alcott family lived there in the 1800s, complete with the desk that Louisa wrote at. If you visit during the month of December, they also offer a holiday program on the weekends.

Phillips House

Amidst the Witch Museums and tourist landmarks in Salem, MA stands a grand historic home on Chestnut Street. The Phillips House is a true New England style estate, built by Captain Nathaniel West in 1821. When you visit, you’ll find  a unique collection of early American antiques, as well as Hawaiian and Polynesian artifacts. You can also enjoy a Thanksgiving celebration with the Phillips Family on November 15th.

Victoria Mansion

If you are heading up North in Maine, be sure to look up the Victoria Mansion in Portland. A summer home to Ruggles Sylvester Morse, the estate was built in 1860 and is also known as the Morse-Libby House. Considered as one of the most splendid examples of pre-Civil War architecture, the opulent estate is decorated to the nines with lavish, intricate details throughout.

 

 

Mark Twain House

A well-known household name, Mark Twain is an American icon. However, most New Englanders don’t realize that his house is right in Hartford, CT.  Visitors can peruse the impressive home, where Mark Twain and his family lived from 1874-1891 and Twain wrote some of his most famous works including Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Prince and The Pauper and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. The House’s Annual Holiday House Tour takes place on Sunday, December 2nd, so be sure to visit this destination.

 

The Rocks Estate

And now that we’re in the spirit of the holidays, here’s another one of our favorite estates to visit during the season! Located in Bethlehem, NH, The Rocks Estate is best known as a Christmas tree farm. But, when you are there picking out your tree, don’t forget to marvel at the rest of the 1,400 acre estate. Walk around the well-kept trails, learn how maple syrup is made, and enjoy sights of the preserved wildlife around the grounds. During the holidays, there is a plethora of festive activities to partake in.

 

We hope you’ll take some time and enjoy a few of our favorite estates around New England! Happy travels!

Apps as a Marketing Tool for Book Publishers

9 Nov

The digital versus print worlds have been at odds in the publishing industry for years, and while many people argue for one side or the other, smarter publishers have learned how to embrace both. The problem is, digital initiatives can be expensive and out of reach for many independent publishing houses.

Union Park Press here in Boston is one such indie publisher. They put out great titles on history, arts and culture in New England, and they were seeking a

creative way to market their latest title, Drinking Boston: A History of the City and its Spirits by Stephanie Schorow. And that’s the reason that those who pick up this title–suitable for both the history buff and the cocktail aficionado–will find a QR code in an unlikely place: on the book’s cover. The QR code leads to a TourSphere tour of the book’s bars and pubs–a virtual pub crawl that, with the help of the interactive map in the app, helps to bring the book to life and allows the user to retrace the book’s steps through the city.

Creatively marketing a book through a free app is something new to indie book publishing, which until now has seen apps and digital marketing as often outside its budget. When apps cost tens of thousands to develop, it’s hard to justify them as part of a small title’s marketing budget. But TourSphere was able to provide Union Park Press with a creative solution that addressed the issues normally faced with digitalmarketing:

  • Expense: While a traditional app can cost tens of thousands of dollars, TourSphere allows anyone to develop an app for free. A small hosting fee applies only when the app goes live.
  • Technical Expertise: Traditionally, app development requires a technical expert or programmer. TourSphere was designed to allow people to develop apps with no coding or programming; it’s a simple content management system that almost anyone will be able to use.
  • Accessibility: Normally, you’d have to decide whether you want to develop an iPhone or Android app, known as native apps, and that would leave many of your potential users out in the cold. TourSphere’s web app technology looks and feels like any other app on your phone but is accessible through any web browser on any mobile device, phone or tablet. Because it’s web based, it also allows for instant and free changes to the app whenever you want.

Drinking Boston’s virtual pub crawl app offers a dynamic addition to the book and helps connect users to its content. By launching a PR campaign around the app, Union Park Press is also able to garner additional attention for the book and engage app users who may then be interested in a more robust history in print.

For more information, or to check out the Drinking Boston app, visit http://drinkingboston.toursphere.com/en/.

The App “Made in Hollywood”

8 Nov

The use of TourSphere’s technology is just about endless in our imagination – we see an unlimited number of uses for our mobile app technology. From different venues and tours, additional features, and a multitude of uses, we believe that technology is always evolving just like TourSphere. It’s exciting to us when we see our clients have a similar vision and utilize their customized mobile app in a new and different way!

Today, we are very excited to present a unique use of a museum app. The Toledo Museum of Art has built their mobile app through TourSphere, and are showcasing the app in kiosks throughout the museum. As visitors walk from display to display, they are greeted by mounted iPads, providing more insight around the collection.

Currently used in the “Made in Hollywood: Photographs from the John Kobal Foundation” exhibit, running through January 2013, the TourSphere app welcomes visitors as they enter the gallery and presents context around the photos of Hollywood. This exhibit includes over 90 prints from the most important photographers of the Golden Age. As you walk through the images of people like Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable and others, you can almost hear them speaking fromt he past through iPads.

Bringing together old world Hollywood with the latest cutting edge technology, visitors get the chance to experience history at its finest. We applaud The Toledo Museum of Art on their clever use of their mobile app and look forward to visiting to see technology in action, at it’s best.  It’s clear that this exhibit was meant for the silver screen!

All photos courtesy of Andrew Weber.

New Study Shows Museums Offering More Mobile Experiences

5 Nov

“His house is like a museum. It’s very beautiful and very cold, and you’re not allowed to touch anything.” – Matthew Broderick, in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

People sometimes think of museums the way Ferris Bueller described them. But as you and I know, that’s changing! Especially when museums adopt mobile technology to create interactive apps that enhance the visitor experience.

Check out the recent survey by the American Alliance of Museums in the U.S. and Museums Association in the U.K. It’s predicted that by 2013, there will be two billion smartphones worldwide. Many smartphone users, of course, will visit museums – and they want a way to interact with exhibits on their devices.

The survey found the biggest motivation for most “mobile museums” is visitor engagement. That might mean guiding the visitor though the museum via a custom map or providing them with an interactive tour with multimedia features like photos, videos and audio.

Many museums may have shied away from creating a mobile experience for their visitors because:

1. They thought it would be too expensive

2. They thought it would require serious technological expertise

In the past, yep – those two reasons were true. But not anymore. With do-it-yourself app platforms now available like TourSphere, museums can build custom mobile apps that work on any smartphone or tablet (iPhone, iPad, Android, etc.).

Many museums have already employed this technology with great results. New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art teamed up with TourSphere and Green Door Labs to create an interactive mobile game that leads visitors on a murder mystery through the museum. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center’s mobile app is an emotional journey through the museum and the struggle for freedom. And the Boston-area based Museum of Bad Art is using its new TourSphere mobile app to showcase its pieces for its tens of thousands of Facebook fans who are based around the world.

As museums continue to adopt mobile technology and create interesting, and sometimes unexpected, visitor experiences, Ferris Bueller’s hilarious statement will itself seem like a thing of the past.

Budget Travelers Explore Boston with a Mobile Concierge

2 Nov

As you know from our last blog post, hotels and resorts find it extremely beneficial to create and utilize a TourSphere app to highlight their own property and services. Today, we want to introduce you to 40Berkeley, the hippest and most affordable place to stay right  in the heart of Boston!

40Berkely created a mobile app for potential tourists and current visitors, to help introduce them to the property and navigate their way around the city. Their app provides visitors with contact information, maps, event listings as well as a link to their blog for more ideas and suggestions for what to do around the city. They even provide virtual tours to many of Boston’s local attractions, so visitors can view places before they even arrive at their destination! And, they highlight restaurants and attractions that provide a discount specifically for 40Berkeley guests. Guests can even provide on-the-spot feedback through their survey right on their mobile phone!

We compliment 40Berkeley on their great mobile app and think they did a great job providing potential and current guests all of the information they would need for planning a trip to Boston! Check it out!

To view the Mobile Tour of 40Berkeley visit http://40berkeley.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

To view the Mobile Tour of 40Berkeley visit http://40berkeley.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

%d bloggers like this: