Tillicum Village To Add Language Translation For Asian Visitors

Beginning this May, Chinese and Japanese visitors will be able to use state-of-the-art headsets by AudioConexus to listen to the complete Tillicum Village 25-minute show in either Mandarin Chinese or Japanese languages. A nominal rental fee for the headsets will be charged and the technology will be in place for guests by May 15th.

According to Kevin Clark, President and CEO for Argosy Cruises and Tillicum Village “Our goal is to help encourage our foreign visitors to better understand the Native American art, history, food and culture of our region – and what better way to do so then in their native tongue.” According to Clark, “Between Seattle’s strategic gateway location to Japan and China, and the newly released 10-year travel visa deal with China, growth in Seattle tourism from Asian markets is on the verge of exploding. We want to be ready to accommodate all of our guests.”

Jonathan Stanley, President and CEO of AudioConexus Inc, said “Argosy Cruises is redefining the quality of the storytelling experience their guests receive by providing language interpretation in Japanese and Mandarin. We are thrilled to be a part of Tillicum Village’s vision to topple language barriers in a one-of-a-kind stage performance that is truly unique and entrancing. Storytelling preserves Native American culture and tradition and we’re grateful our technology is being used to connect foreign language travelers to a deeper feeling of interconnectedness during an amazing stage show and performance.”

In 2012 Delta Airlines served just three Asian cities from Seattle, in 2015 that has jumped to six. In addition, beginning this July, Hainan Airlines will have direct routes to Seattle from Beijing. According to Visit Seattle, Seattle/King County’s official destination marketing organization, the Chinese market is now the fastest-growing and highest-spending tourism market in the world, with the average Chinese traveler spending $6,000 trip.

About Argosy Cruises

Argosy Cruises has been operating in the Puget Sound region since 1949 and has carried more than eight million people. Family-owned and locally operated since its inception, Argosy Cruises offers its guests public tours and private events. Argosy Cruises took over complete operations of Tillicum Village in March 2009. Tillicum Village was founded in 1962 and is the Seattle’s complete Northwest Native American experience, featuring a cruise, salmon bake and Native American storytelling and dance on a 475-acre island.

AudioConexus Set to Open EU Sales and Service Office

AudioConexus Inc., a Tour Entertainment company that provides automated and remotely triggered technology (GPS RF, IR and RFID) as well handheld audio and multimedia interpretation in the global tourism industry has expanded by opening an office in Lisbon, Portugal, providing a strengthened presence in Europe to facilitate business development and service work for its clients in Europe.

“We’re really excited to offer our European clients an EU sales and Service Centre while providing sightseeing companies/tour providers and cultural attractions with innovative and cost effective tour solutions,” said Jonathan Stanley, President & CEO. “Heading up our Lisbon office is Daniel Bilhau, who is set to leverage our expertise in multilingual tour markets. For us, Europe is a strategic market where we will continue to provide high levels of service and support with attractive pricing.”

Doug Humphreys, cofounder and Executive Vice President, Sales said “Our business in Europe is growing exponentially. Opening an EU office enables us to deliver expertise and advice quickly to clients, often sharing the same time zone. By servicing the demand in Europe with local sales, service and support we can better accommodate the multilingual tour market demands far more effectively.”

About AudioConexus

AudioConexus Inc. provides GPS triggered and handheld audio and multimedia interpretation in the global tourism industry. Providing multilingual entertainment, AudioConexus has produced audio tours in more than 30 languages for premier brands around the world. AudioConexus provides thousands of audio tours daily, unique tour experiences about destinations, works of art, objects and exhibits.

AudioConexus is delighted to welcome Daniel Bilhau to represent the company in Europe. Mr. Bilhau is an experienced and respected Media Communications professional based in Lisbon, Portugal. From 2008 – 2013, he worked with AudioConexus, developing clients in Portugal, Spain and Iceland. Daniel currently advices clients on mobile strategies and content.

The EU Office is set to open May 1st, 2015.

Blue Boat Company Features Kids Tours and Pirates! Arrr!

Blue Boat Company, a leading sightseeing company in The Netherlands, is leading the way by welcoming parents and kids looking for fun things to do in Amsterdam. Blue Boat Company has launched the first and only kids tours on the city’s winding canals.

The Children’s cruise began in the Fall of 2014 and has been a big hit (with both parents and kids). The audio tour is GPS triggered and plays on our multi-language commentary systems in Dutch and English.

Kids Tours Create Family Fun

Kids get to learn and explore the real world while hearing good stories in a beautiful setting. Not only are kids engaged in a fun quest, it’s educational too.

Vincent Geljon, Managing Director, Blue Boat Company says “We are very happy with our new kids tours, it’s been a big hit for us. Kids are engaged in their surroundings and really enjoy the new tours.”

Blue Boat Kids Tour GPS Multi-language

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wanted: Freshwater Pirates!

Blue Boat Company Kids Tour Pirates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you ready for an exciting adventure on the canals of Amsterdam? Kids get to hop on board Blue Boat Cruises to discover what it means to be a buccaneer! Their quest is to help a cat named Harold who wants to be a pirate. But there’s a big problem. Harold is afraid of the water! How will your kids help Harold to become the pirate he’s always wanted to be?

Jump aboard matey, arrgh and learn how you can help Harold face his fear by becoming a certified Freshwater Pirate!

Audio Tours Include Fun Activities For Kids

Kids on this adventure tour get to spot all the animals in the city using their binoculars, they design a lucky sign and a tattoo for Harold, recognize water-sounds and draw the perfect ship-house.

This interactive adventure is included in every children’s ticket (5-12 years) and includes an audio tour, a log and a pair of binoculars.

How cool is that!

Bail-out Routes and Why You Need Them

The best sightseeing operators have alternative strategies for unforeseen traffic and construction, planned and unplanned city events and emergencies. When it comes to providing GPS triggered audio commentaries on vehicles the challenges of the road are often the hardest to adapt to. If you have construction or traffic jams, what’s your backup plan?

At AudioConexus, our Project Managers plan for alternative routes based on the challenges you may encounter in your destination. For example, do you experience heavy traffic between 4:00pm and 6:00pm Monday through Saturday? Is the city planning construction on the road near a major attraction on your route? Do certain streets on your sightseeing route flood with water when there is an abnormal amount of heavy rain?

To address these potential issues, we create bail-out routes for your tour. Bail-out routes are additional points of interest tied to audio commentary on streets used when your buses are forced off route. You can play existing audio from your tour or include fresh content written and produced to fit seamlessly into your sightseeing experience.

If there is a road closure due to construction that forces your drivers to miss a Point of Interest on your tour? Bail-out routes solve this problem.

Let’s look at a practical example of a bail-out route. Below is a photo of Wellington Street in Toronto, Canada. You operate a tour bus that passes directly behind of the Hockey Hall of Fame. On a normal day, your bus follows the blue line through the Hockey Hall of Fame POI, which plays the corresponding audio files. Your bus continues down the street without any tour interruptions. The bail-out route POI, ready to play audio about Union Station is not activated.

GPS Audio Commentary Hockey Hall of Fame

The next day your tour bus approaches this same area and the street behind the Hockey Hall of Fame is closed.

You knew the city had planned construction on this street so your driver turns left to bypass the road closure, heading towards Union Station. Seamlessly, commentary plays at Union Station and your tours are not interrupted. Once your tour bus is past the construction, it returns to your sightseeing route and continues your tour.

Hockey Hall of Fame Bail-out Route

If you want to create bail-out routes for your commentary systems give us a call at (613) 507-1300. We’re here to help.

Our Audio Duckers Don’t Quack

Audio ducking is a feature we sometimes use when multiple sounds or audio sources are present in a bus, boat or train. For example, we use a ducker when two audio sources are required for different purposes. Imagine installing a multi-language commentary system with a dedicated microphone for emergency announcements. Which audio source gets priority when your bus in on route?

An audio ducker is used to solve this problem of prioritizing sound. How?

  • An audio ducker allows one sound to be partially or fully muted while another sound is playing.

Audio ducker

 

 

 

 

 

The use of audio duckers is fairly common when integrating your GPS commentary system with your PA System. An audio ducker allows you to prioritize which sound is heard first. Using the example of a microphone used for emergency purposes, any sound delivered over your mic takes priority over audio commentary playing over your PA System speakers.

By setting up a ducker to give your microphone priority, your emergency announcements are always heard first – over any other audio source.

 

GPS Navigation is Everywhere – So What Is It?

Most people know about GPS. It’s on our cellular phones, in our cars and seems to be omnipresent in technology. What really is GPS? How does it work? Why does it work in some situations but not in others? These are some of the questions I’m going to address today. GPS is a more complicated system than some people realize and I want to shed some light on the subject.

GPS stands for “Global Positioning System”. The system consists of 24 satellites orbiting the earth everyday. Where did they come from? These satellites were originally put into orbit for military use by the United States Department of Defence. In the 1980s they were made available for use by the public. Since then, GPS devices have been a booming industry. Think of the Personal Navigation Devices in cars. Or the mapping capabilities of your phone. There are still other positioning satellites out there – GLONASS (Russian) and the planned upcoming Galileo Positioning System being developed by the European Union. There is also the American Standard Global Positioning System, still the strongest player in the commercial market.

So now that we know what GPS is, how does it work? With 24 GPS satellites in orbit, a standard hand-held GPS device needs to have a clear line of sight to 3 satellites to generate your location on the planet. This uses a fundamental principal called Triangulation. Your device, be it a tour app or a bus, sends out a ‘ping’ to the satellites. When the Satellites receive that ping, they transfer the data (how long the satellites took to receive the message) to a Monitoring station. The Monitoring station then relays the location back through the satellites and to the device to tell it where it is positioned. This all happens in the blink of an eye.

In our case, we use GPS for our commentary systems. Our GPS receivers lock signals with several different satellites orbiting the Earth. This allows us to play commentary at precisely the right moment on sightseeing routes worldwide.

Occasionally something happens to make your GPS unavailable. Normally you may notice your device states “GPS Searching”.  GPS Satellites can normally see through “soft” materials, while being blocked by “hard” or “reflective’ materials. As an example, a GPS signal can easily penetrate vinyl, but has a much harder time penetrating a metal roof. This can show itself in a variety of ways, and ‘hard’ or reflective materials are found in a lot of unexpected places. Large buildings are obvious, while not many people know that tinted windows contain metal that can block GPS signals. You always need to be aware of location when you are holding or installing a GPS device or antenna.

GPS is a great technology for a lot of different applications and is a perfect tool for almost any outdoor tourism application.  Just look at the way GPS has changed the way we travel – with devices like Garmin or applications like EveryTrail.

The Myths About Rechargeable Batteries

The rechargeable battery. It seems so simple in design and most of us have been using them in everything from doorbells to electric toys since we were kids. Such a variety of batteries exist and there seems to be new types of batteries arriving on the market all the time.

Duracell or Energizer? There is one thing about rechargeable batteries that is peculiar. Rumors abound and even batteries are surrounded by urban legends. I am talking of course about how to charge them.

Rechargeable Batteries. Memory, Life and Volatility.

Since their invention all the way back in 1859, (Yes, rechargeable batteries have been around that long!) there have been a lot of questions and speculation about rechargeable batteries. Battery ‘memory’, battery life and battery volatility. These are the three subjects I’ll be addressing today.

Battery ‘memory’. Do you really have to ‘train’ your batteries by draining them all the way to ‘dead’ and charging them all the way back up? The answer to this is no. The interesting part is that the answer used to be yes.

In older lead-acid and NiCd batteries this used to be an issue. A battery did have to be charged fully before using it. Then, it had to be completely drained. This was due to low quality components being used at that time. Since the mid-1900s, battery quality has increased dramatically. In this day and age, you can charge your batteries any time without having to worry about them ‘remembering’ a lower maximum charge.

Battery Life is covered in myths too! – refrigerating or freezing batteries, increasing their life by putting them in the microwave or letting batteries warm to room temperature before using them are common myths. I can assure you that none of these directly affect the life of the battery as a whole. What does affect a battery are the number of Charge Cycles it goes through.

A charge cycle happens any time a battery is connected to a recharging device in an attempt to recharge it. All batteries have an expected number of charge cycles determined by the manufacturer. The batteries we provide for example, have 900-1000 expected charge cycles. The best way to increase the life of your batteries is to only charge them once per day.

The best method of accomplishing this is to turn off your battery chargers during the day so you can turn on your battery chargers for overnight charging. That way, if a tour device such as an audio guide is picked up and put back into a charger slot during the day, it doesn’t use a charging cycle (because the power is off).

Rumours abound of batteries doing some pretty odd things up to and including massive, fiery explosions! Of course this rumor is mainly just myth. In reality, not all batteries have the ability to explode, even when set directly on fire. Setting batteries alight is still not a good idea, as the battery can rupture (complete with a popping sound and a jump), breaking the seal and releasing potentially harmful gases into the air.

Most batteries start in a more volatile state early in their development. Batteries such as Lithium-ion batteries were actually prone to overheating and catching on fire if they were charged improperly when they were in the testing stages of development. Again, advances in technologies have made these batteries safe enough to be carried in nearly every modern cell phone, providing a much longer battery life than their lead-acid cousins. This also means that our Infrared Audio Guide products can function for up to 18 hours before needing to be recharged, even with an LCD screen and high definition audio.

In conclusion, while wives’ tales and urban legends have sprung forth over the years, telling us to not step on a crack or throw a pinch of salt over a shoulder, it’s always a good idea to do your research to see if a potential issue actually exists.

GPS Tour Breaks Down Language Barriers in Alaska

Beautiful and Bountiful Alaska with White Pass & Yukon Route

Once again we found ourselves surrounded by the white-capped Rocky Mountains far north of my home latitude.

Driving south from Whitehorse we passed through the magnificent White Pass – the only way people are able to drive into Skagway, Alaska. I was immediately struck again by the surrounding beauty of Alaska – having traveled here in 2013. It was simply – Awe.

The landscape is inspiring and reminds me why so many people dream of making this trip into the Alaskan wild. I was so fortunate to back again – this time for an iconic scenic railway. When arriving on site and seeing the narrow gauge railroad, my inner child wanted to leap out of me – having both dreamed about being a train conductor and a gold rush pioneer as a kid.

Our client, White Pass & Yukon Route offers passenger experiences “to the White Pass Summit, passing Bridal Veil Falls, Inspiration Point and Dead Horse Gulch” where people enjoy “breathtaking panorama of mountains, glaciers, gorges, waterfalls, tunnels, trestles and historic sites.”

When I was in Alaska for the first time, I jumped at the opportunity to ride on this train. The trestles, gorges, waterfalls and glaciers were spectacular. And you get to see the original “Klondike Trail of ‘98 worn into the rocks, a permanent tribute to the thousands of souls who passed this way in search of fortune.” It’s a once in a life time experience!

GPS Tour Systems Deliver One of Seven Languages

While I would have loved to ride the train again, I was in Skagway to provide support for the installation of our GPS Commentary Systems in many of their vintage passenger coaches.

These vintage coaches are pulled by diesel-electric locomotives that wind up and around the Klondike mountain region, into British Columbia as well as into the Yukon in northern Canada. It’s amazing to think about the “tens of thousands of men and 450 tons of explosives” that were used to overcome this relentless geography to create the “railway built of gold”.

While in Skagway, I had the opportunity to take photos and I’ve included a couple of photos for you. I promise they don’t come close to the enormity and the majesty of experiencing these mountain ranges for yourself.

White Pass & Yukon Route Glacier Train Experience

















Servicing Foreign Language Travellers With Better Tours

For the team at White Pass & Yukon Route, this multilingual GPS tour project was a departure from their standard operations.

On any given day staff members would provide professional (English speaking) live guides in many of the vintage train coaches – with potentially one train car broadcasting to several other cars over a wireless microphone system. This was a challenge at the railroad due to an increasing trend of foreign language travellers arriving for the Klondike Gold Rush train experience.

White Pass & Yukon Route Glacier GPS Tour System Experience - AudioConexus






















During my visit, I spent my time supporting the installation of several GPS tour systems, including GPS receivers and Guide Control Panels used by staff to select any language for their tours. The entire experience is completely automated, providing passengers with enhanced tour entertainment in several languages.

The new audio commentaries were also tested on the train route, created hand-in-hand by our script writers and White Pass & Yukon Route staff.

Now that our GPS tour systems are installed, any guide is able deliver one of seven languages in each of the train coaches outfitted with our system. This provides passengers with engaging audio tours, including English, French, German, Japanese, Mandarin, Portuguese and Spanish.

The GPS tour system automates the delivery of commentary on route. While this new service was provided at the end of this season, a few end of season trials showed that the audio commentary was a big hit with foreign language passengers.

My favourite story was hearing about Japanese tour groups and their reaction to the tour commentary. Passengers were standing up and shaking hands on cue as they danced to the “Summit Shuffle” at the top of the White Pass. What a blast!

This was the first time Japanese travellers were able to understand and participate in this wonderful tradition. This is what makes our on-sites so meaningful!

Overcoming Challenges for PA System Announcements

Early on in our technical planning process, we took note of a challenge. The White Pass & Yukon Route staff holds the safety of all passengers as their number one priority. Train cars rely on wireless microphones to deliver emergency messages to passengers on every car.

What could we do to accommodate this request with our single language GPS commentary systems?

To overcome this challenge – we added an additional system component.

I’d like to provide a brief introduction to what’s called an “Audio Ducker“.

Taking only half an amp of power, this is a small but useful piece of equipment to mix and temporarily mute audio channels as required. Here is what an audio ducker does: The ducker allows a commentary system to be muted if there is an incoming microphone signal, allowing all passengers to hear live guide announcements as required over a Public Address (“PA”) System.

By adding an audio ducker during the integration of the GPS commentary system we were able to meet the need for emergency and other live guide announcements as required.

What this means is, if a guide needs to deliver an announcement to passengers using a microphone, their voice is heard immediately over the PA System. Audio commentaries are muted until the microphone is turned off.

My Last Day in Skagway

Wrapping up technical support and training was bittersweet. The project with White Pass & Yukon Route was an amazing opportunity to get back to a part of the world I love. And working side by side with train staff was a great experience. I got to spend my time with people who really love what they do and really care about their customers.

But as a person who appreciates the great outdoors and everything it offers – it was hard to leave Skagway’s historic stores, saloons, its wildlife and beauty.

I’m always sad when I have to leave the mountains, especially in Skagway, Alaska. There are sights, sounds, history and people that you can only find in some of the last untamed lands in North America. Just ask the bears that stop by the train yard.

Multilingual Commentary Systems Upgraded to 32GB Memory

Our GPS wired and wireless multilingual commentary systems now come with 32GB of standard memory.

The 200% increase in internal memory card size will allow up to 6046 minutes of content.

Say Goodbye to 8GB of Memory

Whether you’re using the TourMaster Hardwired Commentary system or TriggerPOINT Wireless for portable bus systems our 8GB memory cards offer the following storage capabilities:

TourMaster Hardwired Commentary System

  • Mono 8GB Card = 1511 minutes of total audio tour commentary (~25 hrs)
  • Stereo 8GB card = 755 minutes  of total audio tour commentary (~12.5 hrs)

TriggerPOINT Wireless

  • Mono 8GB Card = 1511 minutes (~25 hrs)

What You Get With The New 32GB Standard

Compact Flash Card 32GB SanDisk

 

 

 

 

TourMaster Hardwired Commentary System

Mono 32GB card = 6046 minutes (~100 hrs)
Stereo 32GB card = 3023 minutes (~50 hrs)

TriggerPOINT Wireless

Mono 32GB card = 6046 minutes (~100 hrs)

*Mono or Stereo PCM 16 Bit, 44.1 KHz WAV (Mono 5.292 MB per minute) (Stereo 10.584 MB per minute)

How to Calculate Your Storage Requirements

1000MB is equal to 1 GB of memory. If you are planning a 90 minute tour in 10 languages, then:

90 minutes x 10 languages = 900 minutes of tour commentary.

Stereo

900 minutes x 10.584 MB = 9525.60 MB.

This is equal to 9.52 GB of memory required to support your tours on the commentary system.

Mono

900 minutes x 5.292MB  = 4762.80 MB.

This is equal to 4.76 GB of memory required.

In both these cases, there is significant room for expansion of your tours. You can add languages, tour topics or extend your tour routes with new audio commentary without having to worry about upgrading memory in the future.

Scalability of Memory Card Options

While our multi-language commentary systems now come standard with a 32GB memory card, you always have the option to upgrade to a higher capacity memory card.

Why would this be needed?

Some of our clients are providing sightseeing tours in more than 20 languages simultaneously. And they are adding new routes and tour topics like architecture, history and kids tours. If you plan on delivering a lot of content we’ve got you covered.

How Solebike Uses Tour Guide System to Enhance eBike Tours

Solebike, an electric bicycle sightseeing company in Athens, Greece provides safe and fun cycling tours to world heritage sites, offering several tour options including:

Co-founders Costas Giannopoulos and Sofia Souflaki created the business to cater to the needs of visitors seeking better tours on bikes – to share the unique and amazing history of an iconic city – Athens.

Solebike’s Tours Offers Visitors Live Guided Narration

A local company proud of Athen’s rich history and heritage is sharing their expertise of the region by providing live guided narrated tours on eco-friendly e-bikes.

To enhance the cycling experience, Solebike uses our tour guide system to communicate with guests as they take visitors to sites people don’t typically reach or even know about.

Founder and General Manager, Costas Giannopoulos, says “We are happy to establish a collaboration with a Canadian company specialized in tour guiding audio systems. We found a product that really gave us the benefits we needed.

At solebike tours, the cyclists are equipped with bike-safe headsets and are constantly connected with the team leader. With our system, riders enjoy engaging narration as we share many exciting and memorable stories about Athens, its architecture and inhabitants and many more things.

A Fluid Cycling Experience

Using the tour guide system, cyclists no longer have to constantly stop and start their tour so they can hear what the tour guide has to say. The poor hearing experience has been eliminated with the introduction of wireless receivers worn by Solebike’s guests.

The listening accessory used by cyclists is designed for one ear so they hear live guided commentary clearly. But they also get to hear environmental noise. This increases safety for e-bike riders while providing the best of both worlds – live commentary while listening to the sounds of Athens all around them.