Please help me find a kiosk for tourists
May 12, 2011 6:06 AM   Subscribe

I need help finding a sturdy, durable "kiosk" to place outside of tourist attractions that allow anyone to push a button and gain access to information about the attraction.

I'm working with the local chamber of commerce and business association to design a walking tour of our city. We have lots of notable and interesting historical attractions, but many of them do not have the budget to stay open as long as would be ideal--especially on weekends.

Our working group thinks that everyone would win if the city could provide the funds to build "kiosks" at the sites. That way, visitors could find out a little information even if the site is closed. Ideally, the kiosk would also be able to record and relay data so that sites would know whether they were consistently missing out on peak tourist hours.

We are already working on smartphone apps and guided audio tours, so that's not exactly the solution. The chamber has envisioned massive kiosks with interactive computers, but that money obviously does not exist.

What I'm envisioning is something that looks more like the call boxes in an elevator or at parking lots: the sturdy, steel box that can connect a phone line at the push of a button. I think these would be more durable, but obviously everyone hates the idea and thinks I'm thinking too small.

Can anyone think of an example of a kiosk that might be appropriate?

Thanks for your help!
posted by jefficator to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total)
We are already working on smartphone apps and guided audio tours, so that's not exactly the solution.

Can you clarify why this isn't exactly the solution? Why duplicate technology that almost everyone has in their pocket?
posted by jon1270 at 6:16 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

The chamber has envisioned massive kiosks with interactive computers, but that money obviously does not exist.

I would commission a 36" x 24" x 2" steel box with a window cut out of the middle and I would mount an iPad to the inside and anti-tamper bolt that fucker to the wall of each venue, preferably in such a way that it was not obvious the thing is really an iPad. On each iPad I would do a touch-screen information display for each location. There is zero need for a telephone line or any connectivity except power if you can unlock the cabinet, take out the iPad and copy logs to a USB device for off-site analysis. If you don't want to fish them out, they are wifi enabled anyway, so still no need for a phone line.

With steel cases you have the advantage of being able to laser cut the city or tour logo onto every case, and no need for paint or maintenance, creating a distinctive, cross-location visual brand for your tour.

Order a lot of extra iPads or insure the snot out of these things. All public technology is routinely subject to vandalism. People do want, just not always quite in the way you had hoped.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:17 AM on May 12, 2011

What are you hoping to accomplish that cannot be done with a simple sign?
posted by schmod at 6:55 AM on May 12, 2011

Best answer: Maybe something like these Tour-Mate audio tours might be what you're looking for. They are rugged boxes that play audio when someone comes up to them, presses a button, then turns the hand crank to have it keep playing. I have both had a presentation from this company and used them in the wild and they're pretty good.

With these, you put the recordings on a chip inside it, rather than having it phone out. They're also great because they're environmentally friendly (the power is generated by the user turning the handcrank), which scores you green points as well. I think that they're usually best deployed with an accompanying exhibit/display, but they work well on their own, too.
posted by urbanlenny at 7:04 AM on May 12, 2011

This is a little outside of the box, but have you been to a gas station that has an ad-o-matic talking constantly at you from the side of the pump? It might be interesting to talk to the guys that make those; some of the original ones I've seen were button activated (& then they figured out no one was pressing the button). But you know, in our state, sites have lovely cast-metal signs telling a little about the site. Put a button with that, and you could include more time-sensitive information like seasonal hours & things like that.
posted by Ys at 7:40 AM on May 12, 2011

When I visited Warsaw last fall, I absolutely loved the benches they had to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Chopin's birth.

They included a push button that played a portion of one of his pieces, a map of the city showing where the other benches are, a paragraph about his life and this particular bench site, and one of those 2D barcodes that a smartphone can scan and be sent to a website with more information.

The above link includes pictures of the benches and people interacting with them.

As a person who did not know much about Chopin or Warsaw, I found these benches to be fantastic, well made, useful, and definitely technologically current.
posted by jillithd at 8:05 AM on May 12, 2011

Dunno where you're located, but a good place to start would be a company that rents trade show exhibits. Nimlok and Skyline are two of the biggest manufacturers (check their page for a distributor in your area) of trade show booths and kiosks.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:36 AM on May 12, 2011

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