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NEAq - NEAq Insider


Use mobile technology as a bridge between the redesigned NEAq.org and the Aquarium's live exhibits. Accessible to diverse audiences (nationality, age, etc.) and mobile platforms (iPod, mobile phone, Wi-Fi networks) Durable stories that will migrate from current mobile technologies to future platforms, such as iPhone, GPS devices, and smartphones.

“NEAq Insider,” a 10-part audio/video guide to the Aquarium's most interesting animals, global research, and work behind the scenes. Delivered to range of mobile devices both on-site and over the web in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Hearing Impaired versions.

The Insider garnered recognition for the NEAq as being a leader in mobile technology. Several stories about the project appeared in major journals, and the video podcast is seeing signs of viral sharing, with over 4,800 downloads during the first three months of the launch.

The NEAq has hired Untravel for another mobile narrative project titled "Blue Impact," an ocean-conservation production scheduled for a summer 2009 delivery.

About the Client

The New England Aquarium, located in Boston, MA, is a leader in global conservation and research, as well as a popular tourist destination receiving 1.3 million visitors in 2006. In 2007, the Aquarium began to redesign its website, conceiving of it as a new gallery for the Aquarium. The web team was also thinking about developing mobile content, but not sure how to most effectively use this medium. Their previous experience with an audio guide system had not gone so well due to low demand and technical challenges renting and maintaining the devices. They were looking to work with a company that would bring some key skills to a mobile project:

  • • Be sensitive and enthusiastic about the culture and mission of the Aquarium

  • • Expertise in all types of mobile media (text, video, iPhone, Flash, etc.), yet able to apply technologies that would really be used by and accessible to patrons.

  • • Work with an interdepartmental team, bridging Web, Education, Exhibits, and Marketing goals in one project.

After seeing how Untravel revealed the human and scientific stories behind Frank Gehry’s Stata Center through a multi-plaform mobile guide system, the Aquarium hired Untravel Media to develop a series of mobile narratives which became "NEAq Insider."

Billy Spitzer, VP of Exhibits, "We're trying to get people to look more closely at the exhibits," he said. "Maybe they'll pay attention to animals they might not have before. There's a whole aquarium viewers never see."

Our Process

Storytelling Solution
"NEAq Insider" features ten animals throughout the Aquarium, guiding patrons’ eyes to significant details in the exhibits, and revealing the lesser-known marine research going on behind the scenes. Untravel spent six months researching subjects and interviewing NEAq staff for the project. In the "Summary" tab, you can watch clips from the project or view the entire project at www.neaq.org/insider.

Technical Solution
Untravel’s approach was to produce the content once and then deliver to a variety of mobile and web platforms. The interface for desktop delivery, was an interactive Flash-based floor plan (view here!) From this map, users can browse by animal or stop number to watch the videos online or download to their personal devices. iTunes podcasts and a dial-in phone system were also used so that content could be accessed by any type of mobile phone at home or at the Aquarium. While Wi-Fi and streaming technologies were looked at, surveys of Aquarium visitors revealed low numbers of potential smartphone users. Untravel is also designing a device rental system for the Aquarium.

“It's a huge advancement of the taped audio tours offered by many museums. It's also another sign of the growing dominance of mobile digital devices in public places.”
David Filipov, Boston Globe

“I took the tour to see what it was like. The guides are young, hip and casual without being overly so. The scientists impart knowledge that could be hard to come by or skimmed over during an actual visit. Everyone in the mini-flims really seems to care about the animals.”
Josh Peterson, Treehugger, a Discovery Company

Our Research

Untravel worked closely with the Aquarium’s education and exhibits departments to design a series of qualitative studies of the “Insider” content. Groups of 20-30 patrons volunteered to test early, rough, and final versions of the Insider, evaluating the technology, content, and social experience of the guide. Key insights into mobile media were discovered and delivered to the Aquarium as research reports and multimedia reports. Some highlights of our research:
    While many people have iPods, few bring them to the Aquarium.
    Human interaction trumps digital, thus mixing digital and human guidance is a key.
    Mobile media can activate patrons to closely examine and sensitively interact with animals on display.
    Mobile media can lead to conversation during and in between media stops.
    Patrons responded positively to environmental messages that are not overly condemning or gruesome.


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