At the Kunstmuseum St. Gallen in Switzerland, museumgoers wore gloves containing active RFID tags and wireless biometric sensors, thereby recording biological and cognitive reactions to each piece of art.
By Brett Neely
Though millions of people walk the halls of art museums worldwide, exhibit curators often have little insight into how visitors experience the artwork on display. At a Swiss art museum filled with paintings and sculptures by Monet, Renoir, Klee and other renowned artists, a recently concluded experiment paired RFID location-sensing technology with wireless biometric sensors to determine how museum visitors emotionally responded to the artwork.
The goal of the experiment, entitled “eMotion: Mapping Museum Experience,” was to see how “the perception of art can be measured.” A multidisciplinary team of researchers from the Institute for Research in Art and Design and the University of Applied Science Northwestern Switzerland spent five weeks observing the reactions of visitors to a special exhibit at the Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, located in eastern Switzerland.
Visitors who volunteered to take part in the experiment, which ended in July of this year, were outfitted with a special glove containing a Ubisense active ultra-wideband (UWB) RFID tag that broadcasted the wearer’s location four times per second via a 6-8.5 GHz RF signal. Each glove also contained sensors that tracked the electrical conductivity of the wearer’s skin, as well as that person’s pulse. The electrical conductivity information was used as a proxy measure for cognitive stimulation, while the heart-rate data served as an indicator of emotional excitement.