The San Diego Air & Space Museum has launched its BEAM Virtual Tour Program, which enables both school groups and people who are physically unable to visit the museum to take tours through the use of a computer and Internet connection.
Virtual visitors can see museum exhibits in real-time with an interactive tool that moves, sees, and speaks on command through a motorized stand. A 17-inch flat screen monitor displays the user’s face. The robot is controlled by the user (or the user’s assistant) from a remote location on any PC or laptop using directional keys or via mouse point-and-click.
A main video feed shows the BEAM’s surroundings and allows the user to interact with others and travel through a wide-angle camera with zoom capability, a microphone that cancels echo and reduces background noise, and a built-in speaker.
What differentiates this program from audio tours and virtual tours is the BEAM technology allows for an independent and interactive experience through a self-determined path, according to museum officials. Virtual visitors are able to interact with an in-house guide or docent as they explore the galleries, seeing artifacts as clearly as if they were at the museum. Comments and questions from offsite visitors can be relayed and responded to immediately.
In support of the BEAM Virtual Tour program, the museum received a 21st Century Solutions grant from the NBC Universal Foundation. The grant enabled the museum to launch the free program for people with disabilities which prevent them from physically visiting the museum.
BEAM virtual tours of the San Diego Air & Space Museum begin in January. Tours are one hour and are offered one day a week on a first-come, first-serve basis, through reservations only. Click here to register.
To see videos of the BEAM in action, click here.