Time to Act: Rohingya Voices Oral History Interactive

Voice-enabled interfaces are challenging the long dominance of graphical user interfaces in creating interactions that feel more personalized, authentic and approachable. This project offers a VUI (Voice User Interface)-based experience in connection with an interactive component of an exhibition, Time to Act. Time to Act: Rohingya Voices, is an exhibition that opened in the summer of 2019, created by the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR). The exhibition compassionately portrays the plight of the Rohingya people, whom after decades of violent persecution, have suffered genocide at the hands of Myanmar military forces and an ongoing humanitarian crisis. People and communities worldwide are compelled to consider what action to take. One of the challenges for this exhibition was to immerse visitors in its content in a way that emphasized its relevance, encouraged empathy, and directly connected them to the subject matter. Leveraging VUI as the primary interface, along with supplementary visual, auditory, and tactile components enabled voice interaction between museum visitors and Rohingya now living in Canada. Careful consideration of the CMHR’s universal design approach also paved the way for innovation, allowing for verbal, non-verbal, tactile, visual, and auditory elements that supported a fully accessible experience for audiences of all abilities. Employing voice as a primary input method led to strong performance and evaluation of visitor engagement, pointing the way towards a more integrated and holistic user experience.

The premise of this activity is building on concepts of dialogue, active listening, and engaging the visitor in an experience that strongly aligns with the mandate of the museum – to encourage reflection and dialogue specific to the subject of human rights.

Wide panorama of a series of large scale flat surfaces being projected on.
Zone 1 of the exhibition space for Time to Act: Rohingya Voices. Passive large scale projected black and white images with the inclusion of two interactive 3D tactile images with audio descriptions
Square television screen with two large flat panels with graphics, text, and images of 12 individuals.
Zone 2 of the exhibition space – the oral history interactive final install view. Note that the right panel contains information in French and the left panel contains information in English. All twelve interview participants are pictured as the appear in their response videos.
Close up view of large round button on a black table with 2 arcade-style buttons and a microphone protruding from the top surface.
Close up view of the final installed custom hardware, backlit button with dial, high-contrast decal, microphone, language select arcade-style buttons, and Universal Access Point code (606). Braille and printed labels provide instruction in combination with audio and visual on-screen cues.
Text panel with a list of questions and images of 6 individuals.
Close up of final graphic design for the English panel located on the left side of the interactive.
A mature female visitor standing in front of a museum exhibition.
A combination of tactile components with screen based material has proven to be far more universally accessible than screens alone.
A smiling woman stands with a large group of people while watching an interview on a television screen.
Incorporating VUI technology into exhibitions shows incredible promise for creating transformative museum experiences.