How many screens does Trail require?
Trail can operate successfully on a handful of screens in a small exhibition, or scale to run on 100+ screens spread strategically throughout an entire museum. As a rough guide, we recommend placing screens within a 6 metre radius of the physical stories and artifacts with which visitors will engage. Proximity to material culture aside, more screens allow more visitors to use Trail simultaneously.
What if I want to change the content of an activity?
TrailBuilder allows instant changes to the content of an activity, while controlling which activities are “on-line” and which are still under development. This allows authors to try out new activities privately before presenting them to students.
Can I use this system outside?
As long as the touchscreen stations are appropriately weather-proofed, have power and a reliable network connection, there’s no limitation to the places Trail can be deployed.
Can Trail be produced in a language other than English?
All the textual content appearing in Trail is directly editable through TrailBuilder, meaning Trail can be authored in any language. A multilingual extension to Trail is planned.
Can Trail work with our existing touchscreen infrastructure?
It depends. At the moment, Trail runs on Apple OS X. While originally a PC-based software company, EDM has moved more and more towards Apple’s Mac Mini for museum deployments. We believe that the Mini offers the best client value in terms of robustness, ease of administration, and software development.
You mention smart cards. Can Trail also work with our existing barcode tickets?
Most certainly, yes. While we prefer radio-frequency identification (RFID) cards and readers, Trail can work with printed barcodes and barcode scanners.
Does Trail work wirelessly?
For maximum reliability, Trail currently uses hardwired ethernet connections to each station. That said, a Wifi-enabled version of Trail could be configured if the installation demands.
Does Trail work with iPods or other hand-held devices?
By design, no. The logistical issues of managing hand-helds aside, EDM feels quite strongly that students should be unencumbered as they move around an exhibition. We prefer that students have their attention on the exhibition itself rather than walking around with heads bowed, staring at a small screen. Central to Trail’s success is the sense of accomplishment that students experience when, holding nothing more than a smart card, they leave one area of an exhibit and successfully navigate to a waiting screen elsewhere.
Our visiting teachers like to take information back to the classroom with them. How can Trail help us with that?
Trail’s backend server records every station a team has visited, every question a team has answered, comparisons with other teams, and more. All of this information can be assembled into a PDF takeaway that students and teachers can download from the museum’s own website.
How much do the RFID cards cost?
Custom-branded and placed into plastic sleeves with wrist lanyards, each card costs a few dollars. It is important to note that cards and lanyards are not a ‘single use‘ consumable. Trail’s team-based design encourages the return of cards at the end of a program. Our experience is that cards do not ‘disappear’ with any frequency.
How much does Trail cost?
The cost of the installed system depends heavily on the number of desired screens and associated readers, the degree of software customization required, and other factors such as content development needs, operational staff and curator-training requirements, web-site integration, etc. As a point of reference, a minimal Trail installation is upwards of US $150k plus a $10k annual service agreement. This is commensurate with the scope of the experience and reflects the amount of effort that EDM dedicates to each installation.
What happens if an activity stops working while a school group is using the system?
Trail was designed with such contingencies in mind. Touch-screens, computers, and RFID readers can and do occasionally fail. Even the best-engineered software programs occasionally crash. Trail, however, has a built-in feature that allows a museum educator to quickly and easily relocate an existing team from one (presumably problematic) station to another free one.
Will Trail create additional work for our floor and program staff?
Trail was specifically designed to lessen the work load for your institution’s staff. Key stakeholders provided over a hundred “user stories” that informed the system’s design – all with the express aim of solving real-world operational issues. Trail handles the logistics of delivering a program, leaving your staff free to engage with students on issues of educational importance. Our experience is that even (self-admittedly) technophobic educators quickly realize that Trail is an easy-to-use tool for engaging students with physical content.
The system sounds complicated. What kind of burden will Trail place on our IT support staff?
Little to none. As long as your institution has a decent internet connection, EDM handles all software support remotely as part of the annual service agreement. For hardware issues, EDM typically contracts a mutually-acceptable local A/V company to fix the occasional isolated problem with smart card readers.
If you’re interested in purchasing Trail, or would like to know more about it, please contact us for more information.