There are always more and more surprising, creative uses and deployment of audio and of professional voice recordings than you might expect. For example, you might, at first blush, have difficulty imagining what use a place like, say, a museum would have for a voiceover recording. Surely a live PA system and in-person guide could cover any and all needs for the average visit. But as the world slowly opens again and people begin to travel to all the corners of the map they never had time for before, international travel is on the rise. For an audience who may not speak the native tongue but still want to experience their destination’s culture, you have to get creative. The tool we’ve seen get the most use is a Multi-lingual Audio Guide.
Multi-lingual Audio Guides have actually been with us for a while. The very first “ambulatory lecture” was invented in 1952 by Willem Sandberg, director of Stedelijik Museum in Amsterdam. The goal was to create an experience, “individually controllable by each visitor, which was content-rich, was personal to them, was available at any time, and suited learning styles not served by catalog, text panel, or label.”
The voice narration for these audio tours was broadcast through a closed-circuit shortwave radio, with versions in Dutch, French, English and German. Even over a half century ago, people needed to be mindful of a global audience! That being said, our understanding of what “global” entails has certainly expanded quite a bit. Nowadays, it is standard to at the very least include a recording in Spanish for general audiences.
Sandberg’s shortwave radio broadcasting system was designed so that the signal would only be picked up by those visitors who tuned in through a portable radio receiver, with headphones, while they were inside the area covered by the radio system. In this way, Sandberg’s museum was often filled with groups of visitors walking through the galleries in silence as if they were all being directed by “an invisible force.”
Of course, while the principle purpose of a Multi-Lingual Audio Guide is unchanged, the techniques for implementing an “ambulatory lecture” have evolved.
With the rise of Smart Phones, audio tours are now made available through platforms like Youtube or Apple Music. Modern audio guides are much easier to customize, allowing the visitor to select the length of the tour and how they explore all the offerings on display.
The British Museum, which is located in Britain, one assumes, boasts an audio guide that features 275 expert commentaries, audio, video, text and images that provide in-depth information, self-guided tours for exploring the museum, and a digital souvenir you can send to yourself with a list of everything you visited during your stay.
Other museums have also found ways to marry their voice narration with video and other visual components to make their tours as immersive, informative, and entertaining as possible.
As we said at the beginning, the possibilities for how audio can be used to engage an audience is limitless, bound only by your imagination. And if you make the effort to include voice translation in your projects, you can expand that audience to include as many people as possible.
We are not saying, of course, that a Multi-Lingual Audio Guide is a good idea for everyone and every business. But the audio guide was developed from a simple idea for how to improve customers’ experiences, then brought to life through ingenuity and improved with time and experience. So ask those questions of your own industry: What could improve the experience, and how can you bring that improvement to life?
For more information on the invention of guided audio tours, click here!