The American Museum of Natural History's Explorer app for the iPhone and iPod touch

David Winograd
D. Winograd|07.30.10

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The American Museum of Natural History on New York City's Upper West Side has released AMNH Explorer (free) for the iPhone and iPod touch. This app, funded by Bloomberg, is a tour guide and personal navigation system that allows you to easily traverse the museum's huge collection. You can search for an exhibit by popularity, exhibit hall, or an alphabetical listing, and the app will use the museum's free Wi-Fi to give you step-by-step directions to your intended destination (using either the stairs or elevators). You can also get directions to the closest restroom or exit as well as information about restaurants and gift shops.

If you want to know more about an exhibit, tap its card to see more detail. After you've seen an exhibit, you can mark it as visited, which puts a banner on the exhibit's information card. You can also bookmark exhibits, which will send you an email that details what you've bookmarked as a record of your visit. There is also an option to send exhibit information to Twitter or Facebook.
Tours can be personally built by adding attractions to a list that you can rearrange, and the app will walk you to each one; you can also use one of the packaged tours. There are four tours built into the app; the Dino tour and the Earth and Space tour are preset, but if you're strapped for time, the Highlights tour gives you the choice of a tour that is short, medium, or long with varying numbers of exhibits in each. The Night at the Museum tour shows you exhibits that were featured in the popular film. There is also the option to go on a treasure hunt, which will give you some information on an exhibit and provide hints until you hunt it down.

Floor maps can be displayed with your location pinpointed to allow you to orient yourself. I've gotten lost in the AMNH more than once, and this is quite valuable. An easy to follow orientation video that is subtitled for the deaf is also included in the app.

If you haven't brought the app to the museum, they will lend you a device for free during your visit; I think that's very nice indeed. If you've ever been to the AMNH, you know how daunting finding an exhibit can be. This app solves that problem, and it does a lot more. Since some of the functions can only be done at the AMNH, I can't wait to get there and try it out on-site. I'm sure that using it will make anyone's visit much more enjoyable.
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