19 April 2008

the Node Explorer Works

Imagine taking a trip to a battlefield memorial and spending the day walking from monument to monument, reading signs about historical events. To a lot of people, this sounds educational, but not exciting. But suppose that instead of reading signs, you watch reenactments and interviews on a portable media player. As part of an interactive tour, the player also shows you maps and timelines. Also, what you see and hear changes depending on where you are within the park.

Photo courtesy Node

This location-based media player, called the Explorer, changes your walk in the park into an interactive learning experience. Node, a British media company, created the Explorer for use in museums, historical sites and other cultural centers. People have compared it to the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and the Marauder's Map from the "Harry Potter" series. It uses global positioning system (GPS) technology to determine where someone is within a site and presents interactive information based on that location.

The Explorer's presentations are interactive, and they can include guided tours, images, maps, videos and sound clips. In this article, we'll look at the Explorer's hardware and software and see how its use can affect the tourism industry.


Like a portable media center, the Explorer is essentially a handheld computer. It uses a Linux operating system, and it processes and stores interactive presentations using:

It then plays them using a trans-reflective, high resolution touch screen and 3-D stereo headphones. Its most remarkable feature it is that it uses GPS "Fast Fix" technology to choose which items to play based the visitor's location within the site. It can also mark the visitor's location on an on-screen map.

The Explorer unit is just one part of the wireless Node network, which also includes:

  • Recharging and data collection docks
  • A central server
  • Web-enabled computers, which staff members use to access Node software

In the next section, we'll look at the Node software in more detail.

Location-Based Services
Companies are using location-based services to deliver traffic reports, driving directions, coupons, movie listings and other information to people depending on where they are. These services are a blend of three types of technology:
  • Mobile devices, like PDAs, cell phones or laptop computers
  • Wireless communication systems, like cell phone networks or wireless network connections
  • Positioning technology, like GPS receivers

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