Friday 18 May 2018

To mark International Museums Day, and ahead of next week’s Techweek NZ, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki today launches a new chatbot through Facebook Messenger.

An innovative tool that utilises machine learning, the chatbot gives online audiences a new way to explore Auckland Art Gallery’s collection of 17,000 artworks. Users are able to send prompts – such as ‘show me…,’ ‘send me…’ or ‘give me…’ – followed by a keyword, colour or, even, an emotion, and the chatbot will respond with a selection of related artworks.

The chatbot is also able to respond to frequently asked questions about visiting the Gallery.

Development of the Gallery’s chatbot has been a joint effort by Regional Facilities Auckland’s Customer Experience team, digital development studio Pixel Fusion, and Auckland Art Gallery’s Marketing and Communications team.

The Gallery’s chatbot is part of an initiative called Send Me SFMOMA headed by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), who launched their text message-based chatbot in July 2017. Following the project’s success, SFMOMA shared basic code behind the chatbot, so that institutions around the world could adapt it to their own holdings. Auckland Art Gallery’s project was initiated following a conversation with SFMOMA facilitated by Sabine Doolin, Audience Strategist from InsightUnlocked, and Anna Leary, Director of Objective Virtual Marketing.

Auckland Art Gallery Director Rhana Devenport says the arrival of a chatbot through Facebook Messenger allows not only for easier, more intuitive searching of the Gallery’s collection but also for a playful experience that prompts discovery and delight.

‘This year’s International Museums Day highlights “Hyperconnected Museums,” so it’s appropriate that we’re launching our chatbot created thanks to the connections forged with the team at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art – and developed with the goal of connecting Auckland Art Gallery’s artworks to the millions of Facebook users across the globe. This worldwide initiative to make art museums’ collections more easily and enjoyably accessible via digital platforms allows users, wherever they may be, to explore the Gallery’s collection using colour, emotion and other keywords,’ says Devenport.

She adds: ‘We’re excited to be part of a growing global network of art institutions who are making their collections accessible in this way.’

Jay Mollica, Creative Technologist at SFMOMA, says: ‘Following the launch and success of Send Me SFMOMA, we decided to share some of the basic code so that our colleagues at other museums, such as Auckland Art Gallery, could adapt it in a way that works for their audiences. Auckland Art Gallery is the first institution to launch a chatbot following Send Me SFMOMA and it’s especially rewarding to see the innovations they’ve brought to the concept and the rich experience they’ve created.’

Edward Leoni, Senior Software Engineer, Pixel Fusion says: ‘Throughout our work with the Auckland Art Gallery, our goal has been to use technology to surface their incredible collection in engaging and innovative ways – the chatbot achieves exactly this. The exciting thing about the bot is that it is so accessible and for the first time the Gallery’s collection can be searched and explored from within an app that is a familiar part of daily life for billions of people around the world. This is yet another important step for Auckland Art Gallery, as they take their art beyond the gallery walls.’

The chatbot utilises more than 100,000 human-sourced and machine-generated tags to categorise artworks – and it is still learning. The more people message the chatbot, the smarter it becomes.

​Auckland Art Gallery’s chatbot is now live and accessible via the ‘Send Message’ button on the Gallery’s Facebook page.

Media Release: Auckland Art Gallery's new chatbot 169.74kB pdf file
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