A Museum Guide That Follows Your Lead

Do-it-yourself museum treks still mean either roaming around reading exhibit placards or renting a portable cassette system that talks only about certain exhibits on a set path through the museum. But a subsidiary of Nice Ltd., a software company based in Tel Aviv, has a way to offer the best of both methods.

Audiomate is a small portable device that resembles a handheld phone. By using software compression techniques, the device stores up to four hours of audio-based information on dynamic random-access memory chips instead of conventional tape. When visitors come across a painting they want to know more about, they enter a three-digit code designated for that piece, and a microprocessor retrieves the information from the memory banks. New York-based Acoustiguide, which operates the audio-tape concessions at many major museums worldwide, says the Louvre will be the first to use Audiomate in its new Richelieu Wing--an area scheduled to open in November.

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