Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The Great Reading Cheese Mystery Part 4 -making the QR code reader


We needed a cast-iron way that visitors taking part in the game could get the 'clues' decoded. Having experienced problems with wi-fi coverage in some parts of the museum, and also found some visitors had problems with the iPad touch screen, we used an iPad box and security device to make a (very) simple prototype 'machine' to stand in one place in the museum. Holes were cut in the box to allow use of the cameras, access to the power inlet and so on.

An iPad 2 was loaded with the i-nigma QR code reader app, placed inside a security shield and placed on top of the box.

See: http://www.flickr.com/photos/aacttest/sets/72157629434314079/

A small adjustment was needed - an extra 'slot' through which a torch could be shone when light levels were low.

We did not use the matchbox to load clues in practice as it was fiddly and added time. Children just put the clues (which were printed on ordinary 90gm paper) into the slot which was made half an inch deep.

However, some further adjustment is needed to guide the code to an exact spot. Children using the machine enjoyed 'lining up' the code with the reader's preferred area, but for more certain outcomes when used by those who might find this difficult, or who are more interested in getting the information than 'playing' with the iPad, there needs to be a guidance mechanism for the card containing the code.

The iPad cover was taped to the box to prevent users slipping things down inside. We are going to encourage visitors to bring their own iPads. A similar box onto which they can put their own iPad without fixing it permanently might be worth trying.

For general use around the museum, we will also try mounting the box on a trolley. This might also get round the fears about security. Not a solution that would be feasible in a very crowded gallery, but one that might work in smaller, less densely visitor-packed museums, or for use in small tour groups. It will also help those who find carrying the iPad for any length of time difficult, and those who find it difficult to 'line up' a QR code on an object with a smartphone or iPad camera.

If the box proves useful we might get one made of a suitable material (wood perhaps for the Rural Life museum).

It would be too intrusive to have this sort of box in many fixed places around the museum. However, it sounds as though there has been some work on doing something similar for visitors to use with their phones and we'll investigate that. It may be a way of getting round the lack of NFC (near field communication) on current generation iPhones and other smartphones and could help those who find lining up on a QR code difficult, for example because of poor hand-eye coordination or through sight-impairment.

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