I recently spent some vacation time in Washington D.C. which naturally involved squeezing in as much of the Smithsonian as possible in a short period of time. While I was there, reading about the different exhibits, one thing I saw at quite a few locations really jumped out at me: cell phone audio tours.
Quite a few exhibits had signs or placards up with a phone number and “extension” that you could call from your cell phone to listen to more information about that particular display. These signs everywhere from inside the different Smithsonian buildings to the National Botanic Garden. With my nerdy side shining through, I couldn’t help but think, “What a wonderful application for an interactive voice response system!” Everyone these days carries a cell phone with them, and these call-in numbers give anyone who is interested the opportunity to hear more about the displays that interest them straight from the source, whether it is a recording made by the artist or the curator or gardener.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR) has a way of sounding very complicated, and that is largely because it is such a powerful and dynamic technology that the possibilities alone can be a bit daunting. It is a little bit easier to grasp if we break it down to some of the unique applications that IVR can be used for. In this case, the museum is in essence putting together an information line.
Visitors call the information line, input the number displayed for their current location, and the appropriate audio is played back to them. In other cases, it can be used as an answering attendant to direct incoming phone calls to different extensions, collecting data in an automated telephone survey, or a variety of other tasks.
So while part of me hates to admit that work followed me on my vacation in the form of IVM interactive voice response software, another part of me really got a kick out of seeing this great application for an IVR system at the museum. It’s something to keep in mind if you are looking for a solution to help you share information or your expertise without having to always be available in person.