SMartART “When the images speak of art”

Product White Paper
Paolo Mazzanti, Italy , Roberto Caldelli, Italy

Keywords: SMartArt., @diversity

1.  An innovative idea for Museum, Visitors and Friends

SMartART is an innovative solution to create an enriched visit of a museum and a way to make culture increasing user interaction and his/her engagement in learning from an image. This kind of image is easy to recognize, enjoyable and emotionally involving, connecting the experience of seeing art works with the experience of learning about them. It provides a smart fruition of museum information, because it joins together images and words with an innovative and smart technology accessible through users’ smartphone. A museum can valorize artworks using SMartART icons to communicate, explain, educate, disseminate knowledge and stimulate emotional learning. With this solution the learning becomes a process of active engagement with experience that leads to desire to learn more and to share knowledge.The LEM (The Learning Museum Network Project) report about evaluation of ICT in museums – Technology and the public (2013) writes: “The increasing number of technologies and devices (including iPhone, iPad and the like) provides new perspectives for the use of multimedia applications in the broad field of cultural heritage. Users frequently access multimedia information at all times, in different circumstances and venues, choosing the broad field of cultural heritage” SMartART is one of these technologies usable inside Museums able to merge the experience of seeing and learning in a smart way and it takes into account the role of the Social Media, that are a space of opportunities and that represent today a benefit for the exhibition’s audience, offering museums a venue for fresh improvement. According with the definition of “learning” suggested by LLML Handbook learning is a process of active engagement with experience. It is what people do when they want to make sense of the world. It may involve an increase in skills, knowledge, understanding, values, feelings, attitudes and capacity to reflect. Effective learning leads to change, development and the desire to learn more.” (K. Gibbs., M. Sani., J. Thompson, 2007). SMartART could be considered a solution to increase and motivate “informal learning”, a kind of learning that occurs through family, social or civic life, not necessarily intentionally, in which we engage throughout our lives. The SMartART icons in fact could increase the motivation of the user to interact with artworks, provide an involvement and smart way to retrieve information about them, stimulate informal learning sharing impressions and personal users’ museum within the Social Media. If it is true that the 21st century museums can play an active role in lifelong learning society, increasing access to cultural life and fostering social cohesion, innovation and creativity, SMartART System could be a useful idea both for museums mission and for cooperation in the following areas :

  • try culture in an interactive and entertaining way
  • increase the visitor’s engagement
  • share user experience and excite curiosity for an informal learning
  • keep track of visitor’s interactions inside the museum
  • reach a greater visibility for museum collections
  • create a vivid user community of art enthusiasts
  • spread information about exhibitions and events to new potential visitors
  • learn about users preferences and behavior
  • guide users to the best places to consume art

The idea considers both the “cognitive” component of learning and also the “emotional” one that influences the motivation of the subject, in fact the attractive and meaningful icons can create user motivation and active engagement to learn. So, SMartART application creates scenarios to enjoy culture both for adults and also for children and young people,during and after the visit. The contemporary museum users have own smartphone during the visit and like to take pictures of the artworks with which they interact or also of the informative labels and descriptive panels. In many museums, especially the Italians ones or inside temporary exhibitions, it is not allowed to take pictures of the artworks and SMartART could help both museums and visitors to overcome this gap. These icons are not abstract because copies of the original artwork, so they could be used in the descriptive panels located during the museum visit, allowing the users to exactly recognize the artwork and the linked information. SMartART finally provides a smart fruition of information by means users’ own smartphone, without downloading Apps requiring high storage memory space and without using add-on-devices. These images are also shareable and reusable and they can be considered a new paradigm of digital culture for museum and ‘smartcities’ of the future:images that can “speak of art when they are questioned“because “a picture is worth than a thousand words.”

2.     How The System works

The SMartART system is composed by two main parts: a “Maker” and a “Reader

  • The ICON MAKER Make & Manage Data

The Icon Maker is a service application to create SMartART icons based on the original image of the artwork. A distinctive is unperceivable embedded within the SMartART icon as a link between the artwork and the additional multimedia content the client wants to present to the end-users (e.g. artwork description, videos, links to websites) (Figure 1)

  • The ICON READER Discover & Share Experience

The Icon Reader is a smartphone application (Android, iOS) that scans a SMartART icon simply by taking a picture, detects the hidden code and presents the available multimedia content. The user can now interact with the content and share it with friends in their social networks. (Figure 2)

Figure 1: SMartART: The Icon Maker

Figure 1: SMartART: The Icon Maker

Figure 2: SMartART: The Icon Reader

Figure 2: SMartART: The Icon Reader

  • Museums: can use marked icons to diversify and customize the user-experience, linking the icon to any kind of information. They can manage the contents and keep track of the user interactions, share knowledge and make greater visibility of the collections and wider and new audience.
  • Visitors and Friends: can use a Smartphone Application for more interaction with the artworks, discovering and receiving additional information on the smartphone, S/he can enjoy and interact everywhere with images and contents, increasing engagement in informal learning, creating a storytelling to share the experience of museum visit within the Social Networks.

For the first time the usage of abstract codes or patterns is obsolete and the information can be linked to icons that are a direct copy of the original artwork and the users know exactly to which artwork the information are linked. Users can enjoy the images during and after their visit and easily share them with their friends and family via social networks creating a personal storytelling of their museum experience. This way the SMartART app becomes a multiplier tool for museums and galleries to reach broader target groups and spread information about exhibitions and events to new potential visitors. Furthermore, Museums through SMartART System can improve management and valorization of the museum’s heritages, keep track of user interactions inside the museum and reach a greater visibility for their collections. The vision of SMartART is to create a vivid user community of art enthusiasts, learn about their preferences and behavior and guide them to the best places to consume art that fits their taste and financial capabilities.

3. Technology

The technology behind this system is the Digital Watermarking, to imperceptibly embed informative data (mark)inside a digital document; being an active technology, it allows to differentiate the additional information returned according to the reference context. Such information undergoes the same processing as the image which is contained in. Afterwards, the data are extracted with an operation of detection of the mark, in order to make a particular assessment on the image and/or to activate a specific service. This system alternative to Image Recognition technology based applications and provides a Diversification of the contents. The watermarking technology permits to embed different codes within the same image, thus resulting in a differentiation of the content provided (one image more contents!). SMartART is alternative to QR-Code/Barcode technology based applications (Figure 3):

  • QR-Code is unattractive and unmeaningful Information is limited (URL) and the user needs to be online to get the additional information. SMartART can provide basic contents off-line.
  • Active engagement of the user Users are not passive but in first person involved. They are free to photograph what they like, they are more engaged to interact with culture by scanning the icon pictures with their own smartphone and reusing them everywhere
  • Use of images Because icons are not abstract but a direct copy of the original artwork, they allow the users to exactly recognize the artwork and the linked information.
Figure 3: SMartART Icons  more attractive than QR-Codes and Barcodes

Figure 3: SMartART Icons more attractive than QR-Codes and Barcodes


  • Barni M., Bartolini. F., (2003). “Watermarking systems engineering, Enabling Digital Assets Security and other Applications”
  • Caldelli R., Barni M., Bartolini F., Piva A., (2000) “Geometric-Invariant Robust Watermarking through Constellation Matching in the Frequency Domain”, Proceedings of 7th IEEE International Conference on Image Processing ICIP 2000, Vancouver, Canada, September 10-13, 2000, Vol. II, pp. 65-68.

More info:

Cite as:
P. Mazzanti and R. Caldelli, SMartART “When the images speak of art”. In Museums and the Web 2013, N. Proctor & R. Cherry (eds). Silver Spring, MD: Museums and the Web. Published May 11, 2014. Consulted .

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