Imagine the excitement in 1957 when the American company Acoustiguide introduced a reel-to-reel taped audio tour of Hyde Park, home of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, narrated by his widow, Eleanor.
Acquired by Israel’s Espro Information Technologies in 2005, the multinational Acoustiguide designs cutting-edge digital content for museums, heritage sites and tourism venues across the globe.
The Smithsonian Museums in Washington, the Tower of London, the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, the National Palace Museum in Taiwan, the National Museum of Modern Art in Japan, the National Gallery of Australia – all these and many more use Acoustiguide mobile apps, multimedia guides and mobile games for actual and virtual visitors of all ages.
The Israeli company also brings comprehensive tourist services to entire cities.
“We have many venues that have a whole portfolio onsite: an audio player for adults, tablets for kids and a hot spot where you can download apps to your mobile device.”
The new Smart City App package developed by Acoustiguide China and local partners for the city of Tianjin is a mobile universal platform supporting the Tianjin Smart City Tour, Haihe River Smart Cruise Tour and soon the Tianjin Smart Bus Tour, all available online and offline in English and Chinese.
In addition to navigation, location-based educational and entertaining content, the package offers e-commerce and e-booking.
The Tianjin Smart Bus Tour follows a similar model launched by Acoustiguide and the Taiwan Bureau of Tourism in December 2015, covering nearly 100 routes. The basic platform, already used by more than 150 sites worldwide, will be duplicated in many Southeast Asia cities, Acoustiguide Executive Chairman Israel Gal tells ISRAEL21c.
Hunger Games, the theme park
Branching out beyond classic tourism, last year Acoustiguide won a contest staged by Lionsgate, the US movie producer behind The Hunger Games, to provide a custom application and rich media for a moving exhibition and theme parks.
“We signed a long-term contract with them for the exhibition, which started last year in New York and now is in San Francisco and moving to other places in the world,” says Gal.
“Due to this huge achievement, we won another prestigious entertainment project with The Avengers. We did a big complex custom app and rich media for the exhibition that launched in Paris and Las Vegas last spring. In Japan, we are doing both tourism and entertainment for Attack on Titan, a big media brand.”
“In addition to our bread and butter – museums and heritage sites — lifestyle and entertainment are Acoustiguide’s worldwide direction for at least the next two or three years,” says Gal, who joined Espro Information Technologies in 1997 and transformed it into an international media and technology firm.
Today he oversees 350 employees working in nine Acoustiguide branches. The main headquarters and part of the R&D for hardware and embedded software is in Kfar Saba in Israel, while pure software development is done in Ottawa.
Acoustiguide pairs with Powermat
As Gal stated, museums are still the company’s bread and butter.
“Remaining relevant is a big challenge for museums because of changing expectations and severe governmental budget cuts. ‘Accessibility’ and ‘interactive, engaging content’ are two phrases that are most important. We have a prominent role in increasing the accessibility of museums’ treasures and content to as many populations as possible,” he says.
A single audio or multimedia guide in a certain museum might interest older adults but bore younger visitors who prefer tablets or smartphones with interactive content. So Acoustiguide develops as many as six digital content and hardware options for each venue, Gal says.
“We have many venues that have a whole portfolio onsite: an audio player for adults, tablets for kids and a hot spot where you can download apps to your mobile device. This is a big strategy allowing you to find various platforms with the same content and choose what works best for you.”
The Roman Baths, which in 1995 became the first tourist site in the UK to offer a free audio guide, is now handing its 1 million yearly visitors the sleek new Acoustiguide Opus Plus player, which is wirelessly charged by Powermat technology. Tours are available in 12 languages for adults, three for children, and in British Sign Language.
Visitors also get this unique option at the Fashion Museum in Bath; New York’s Guggenheim Museum and National September 11 Memorial & Museum; the Hermitage in St. Petersburg; the National Palace Museum in Taiwan; the British Museum and the Museum of the Jewish People (Diaspora Museum) in Tel Aviv.
“This is a cooperation between two Israeli companies, Espro Information Technologies and Powermat,” says Gal. “To do business worldwide while cooperating with other Israeli technologies is very efficient.
“When you approach a museum or tourist attraction with the whole arsenal of solutions, it puts you way ahead,” he concludes.