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solution, particularly since the exhibit is geared more towards younger visitors. Other
goals for the technology were personalisation and, since the exhibit is permanent,
longevity.The introduction of personalised `avatars', unique digital manifestations corre-
sponding to each user, was a key goal.The ability of multiple avatars to traverse the
exhibit simultaneously, following their corresponding users by tracking which of the
exhibit's twenty interactive stages the visitors were engaged with at any given time, was
central to the overall requirements of the system.
To this end the museum selected Motorola's BiStatix RFID tags based on their long
proximity range, about 5cm, and acceptable unit cost of the tags (initially around
1.15,
but since fallen). A further benefit of the Motorola tags was the potential for using a
lenticular surface on the surrounding `NetPass' cards, providing an optical illusion similar
to a hologram and thus further increasing their attractiveness.
A specialist interactive development company, Nearlife
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, was
brought in to assist with the design of the exhibit itself, and the RFID
tags and interactive software were brought together by a dedicated
integrating team (Superior Exhibits and Designs, Elk Grove Village
IL, no URL available).When visitors enter the NetWorld exhibit, they
are photographed and their faces are digitally mapped onto a standard
avatar `body'. As they move through the exhibit, the visitors move
their NetPass cards near to one of the BiStatix BXR-610 readers, and
their counterpart avatar travels across a 30-foot long touchscreen dis-
play to meet and interact with them.
A variety of different groups were involved in the creation of the NetWorld exhibit,
including designers, architects, software programmer, systems integrators and the muse-
um's own planning and technical staff.The introduction of the RFID elements was
among the simpler tasks faced by the museum, and few problems were encountered with
the smart tag technology. Before the exhibit went live, the Nearlife development team
and the system integrators each provided basic training for visitor demonstrators as well
as helpful documentation for the museum's technical staff.The entire procedure, from
initial planning to final implementation, took three years, and the NetWorld exhibit
opened to the public on March 2nd 2001.
The chief difficulty management has encountered with the technology is in persuad-
ing visitors to pay the extra $2 for a card after they have already paid for admission to
the museum. It is possible to travel through the exhibit without using a NetPass card, but
much of the intended interaction is lost and the learning objectives are not met to their
fullest potential.
It has been found that when members of the museum staff are on hand to demon-
strate the system, the proportion of visitors buying the cards increases significantly.
Although a formal evaluation of the exhibit has not yet been carried out, informal com-
ments and feedback suggests that visitors who opt to buy the NetPass cards tend to see it
as a worthwhile investment, especially since their avatar is stored permanently and may
be recalled on subsequent visits to the museum.
Another benefit of the combination of RFID tags and the other technologies
employed in the exhibit is the increased extensibility that they offer when used in con-
junction with one another. Proposed future uses for the tags include extending their
Smart Labels
and Smart Tags
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Nearlife, Cambridge MA, http://www.nearlife.com
The NetPass card
ID Systems