'Museum in a Box' Brings Interactive Museum Collections to Classrooms

Museum in a Box, Vimeo
Museum in a Box, Vimeo

Museums hold a wealth of information, but they're not always accessible to everyone. Visiting a museum takes time, money, and opportunity. Even if you make it to a museum, most collections are so vast that only a tiny fraction of the collection is available to view. But a new initiative aims to make it easier for museums to reach schools and communities outside the exhibition gallery.

Museum in a Box is essentially a mini interactive exhibit that can be sent out to schools and other organizations that serve kids. Each box comes with a Raspberry Pi computer, a speaker, an amplifier, and a near-field communication (NFC) reader—like the kind that lets you pay with your phone at retail checkouts. Museums and cultural institutions can then add their own objects for kids to learn about using that technology, whether it's 3D-printed versions of statues from the museum's collections, postcards, puzzles, or anything else curators think kids might want to see. Students can place these objects on top of the box, triggering the NFC reader to start playing a recording related to the object.

How it works from Museum in a Box on Vimeo.

Much of the content museums might want to include in a box might already be digitized on the institution's website or in its collections, but the box provides a tangible, curated way to present it. For a prototype designed for the Smithsonian Institution, for instance, the Museum in a Box team created Frogs in a Box, combining photographs of North American frogs from the Smithsonian collection with a narrated collection of frog-sound field recordings produced by Smithsonian Folkways in 1958. When you tap a postcard featuring a species of frog on the top of the box, it plays audio from Sounds of North American Frogs, including the commentary from a herpetologist and recordings of frog calls.

Though much of the work is still in the prototype phase, the Museum in a Box team has been commissioned to create boxes for institutions like the Barnsley Museums in the UK, the University of Melbourne, and the Swedish National Heritage Board.

A Museum in a Box with red flowers designed for the Jewish Museum London
A Museum in a Box designed for the Jewish Museum London
Museum in a Box

The technology isn't necessarily limited to museum collections, though. Another prototype Museum in a Box, this one aimed at language learners, allows users to place flash cards featuring different words on top of the box to trigger recordings of native speakers pronouncing those words. The team is also developing a pilot for a DIY box that would let kids come up with their own themes and content for a box. You can currently support that project on Crowdfunder.

Playing Jeopardy! While You Drive Is the Best Way to Deal With Your Boring Commute

Ben Hider, Getty Images
Ben Hider, Getty Images

More than 55 years after making its television debut, Jeopardy! continues to hold a prominent place in popular culture. Last spring, James Holzhauer went on a 32-game winning streak, coming just $58,484 short of beating all-time champion (and Mental Floss contributor) Ken Jennings' $2.52 million winnings.

If only Holzhauer had an app to practice with during the drive to the studio. Now, thanks to Drivetime, future contestants and general trivia enthusiasts have that opportunity. The service just launched a Jeopardy! add-on that allows players to answer questions from the first 35 seasons of the show using Drivetime’s voice-based, hands-free interface. A new show will be available to Drivetime users daily. If they subscribe for $9.99 monthly, they can choose any show from past seasons. Questions are read by host Alex Trebek in both archival and recently taped audio.

The game offers one tweak for civilians: As each clue is read, the app offers three possible responses, turning it into a multiple-choice quiz. Money is still accrued and you can still wager on Final Jeopardy to walk away with a victory.

[h/t Engadget]

Need Help Cleaning Up the Dog Poop in Your Yard? There’s an App for That

schulzie/iStock via Getty Images
schulzie/iStock via Getty Images

You love your dog, but you surely don't love what they behind in the yard for you to clean up. In most cases, scooping up poop is an unpleasant but unavoidable part of pet parenthood. Now, as WGN9 reports, there's a way to keep your yard looking pristine without breaking out the waste disposal bags. A business called Plowz & Mowz will come to your home and scoop the poop for you.

Plowz & Mowz is like Taskrabbit for outdoor chores. The app was built around services like plowing driveways, mowing lawns, and mulching gardens, and it recently added pet waste removal to its list.

If you want to get rid of the dog poop on your lawn without getting your hands dirty, download the Plowz & Mowz app and request a poop-scooper to come to your home. After answering a few questions about your property, you'll receive a free quote with the option to set up a date for the service. A contractor will come to your house, update you throughout the process, and send a photo of your poop-free yard once they've finished the task.

Plowz & Mowz is currently operating in more than 40 metro areas, including, Boston, Dallas, Chicago, and Atlanta. To see if the app's poop-removal service is available in your area, you can enter your ZIP code on the website.

Cleaning up waste isn't necessarily time-consuming work, but it's something many pet owners avoid doing at all costs. Some apartment complexes have even started using DNA testing to identify the culprits behind unattended pet poo.

[h/t WGN9]

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