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How Museums Are Using Chatbots

5 Real World Examples

At Deeson, we work with a number of different cultural institutions (including the Royal Collection Trust and the National Army Museum), helping them identify how to best make use of digital technologies. One aspect of that is determining what role chatbot technologies, or conversational UIs more generally, can play.

We have written already about why we believe chatbots are an important tool in any organisation’s toolkit. We are also building a number of prototypes specifically for the museum world and will be sharing the results soon. If you’d like to see a demo then please get in touch.

In the meantime, we look at what museums around the world are doing. Here are 5 examples of how museums are using chatbots to increase engagement with their visitors.

Gamifying Visits

The House Museums of Milan is a group of 4 amazing historical homes in Milan. When they launched a new project that aims to motivate people to visit the four homes through a single itinerary they decided to introduce some gamification into the process so as to attract younger audiences.

The result was a chatbot game through Facebook Messenger. The chatbot invites its young users to explore the four homes finding hidden clues that lead to a final discovery while fighting against a mysterious Renaissance magician (a real historical figure). A great example of how Facebook can be used to engage with younger generations through gamifying the experience.

Enhancing Museum Visits

The National Art Museum in Belarus created a bot that performs a seemingly simple task but to great effect. As you are walking through the museum you can ask the bot (through Facebook Messenger) to provide more information for the item you are looking at.

Enhanced Support

The Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York has undoubtedly been a pioneer in chatbot technologies. As early as 2013 they created Object Phone — a service powered by Twillio that you could text or call to ask for more information on a museum object.

In 2016, Object Phone became a subscription service so that you could receive an update daily.

Furthermore, you can now also ask more complex questions directly to the chatbot powering the service. If the chatbot is unable to answer the query is forwarded to a dedicated museum Slack channel where museum staff can reply. The replies are then channeled back through the chatbot. This means that staff only gets to deal with the more complex queries, while the rest is automated.

Extending Museums through Digital Visits

The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam launched a Facebook Messenger bot on the International Day for the elimination of Racial Discrimination in 2017. The House Bot can provide both information about the Anne Frank house but also more background information about Anne Frank and WWII. The museum sees it as a way to extend the physical location museum to the entire world, providing valuable information in a way that is more engaging than exploring a website.

The bot, developed in partnership with Facebook, is powered by deep learning AI from msg.ai, which means that the bot learns to understand consumer intent and context to predict and provide 1-on-1 content, information or engagement users are seeking.

Giving chatbots a face

This is a rather old example — but it is interesting in that it provides another take on the chatbot experience. At the Heinz Nixdorf Museums Forum they introduced Max. Max is a conversational agent that directly engages with visitors through a screen.

In 2005 this was a challenging experiment, both in terms of how people would react and how it could be built. In 2017, things have moved significantly along. We should remind ourselves that chatbots need not live just in Facebook Messenger. They can be extended and take real shape and form through physical devices, augmented reality or virtual reality. We are just at the beginning of what is possible.

What comes next

We are just at the start of chatbot usage within the museum world. The real-world examples we found illustrate how chatbots are a great way to enagage with people. We expect that many more aspects of interactions with museums will be “botified” and we will start seeing conversational interfaces taking over parts of the website. We are currently experimenting with ticketing for museums and collection search. Both of these areas are perfectly suited for simplification through a conversational interface that hides the underlying complexities of the process.

Beyond pure function

As a closing thought, and given the museum context I would like to also point you to some work done with chatbots as pure art.

Chatbots need not always serve a strictly utilitarian function. They can exist as art, to engage with us and make us see the world in different ways. Exactly what museums aim to achieve every day.

At Deeson we are building a number of different chatbots and exploring the possibilities of different platforms. Follow us on Twitter @deesonagency as we share our results.


How Museums Are Using Chatbots was originally published in Chatbots Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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