Black Radley uses Microsoft tools to create device for museum

by Analytics Insight

January 9, 2022

Microsoft has partnered with Black Radley and the Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery to create a solution that would respond to museum customers.


Black Radley is a consulting organization that works with utilities to inspire and energize systems and people. Black Radley works closely with UK museums on technical and commercial projects. Provincial museums like SMAG are under increasing pressure to be more attractive and profitable, and ultimately to increase attendance by the general public.

Black Radley had wanted to make museum exhibits smarter for some time. Joe, CTO of Black Radley was inspired to explore Microsoft technology after attending the Hereford Smart Devs community meeting in February 2017, where Martin Kearn presented Microsoft’s cognitive services. Black Radley attempted this project using Linux and several open source tools and found that setting up a developed environment turned out to be a challenge.

Public funding for museums was likely to decline for the foreseeable future. To maintain their services, museums and galleries try to attract more visitors and understand the visitor experience. The organization saw two main ways to help museums achieve this goal, to make exhibits more engaging and to better understand customers.

Some exhibits may also have audio, video, or other media descriptions based on motion-triggered, passive infrared sensors (PIRs) that convey information about the exhibit as an approach to the client. While these multimedia descriptions grab attention and convey information in a more compelling way than printed text, they should still be created in a generic way that works for all audiences. Additionally, PIR sensor systems are relatively “dumb” in that they cannot detect when a person is walking away. This causes the descriptions to keep playing until they are finished whether or not someone is listening.

The organization wanted to create a device that would allow a visitor to approach an exhibition in the museum and have a sound read out adapted to its population. It was in the hope that this personalization would provide a more enjoyable, entertaining and informative experience.


Microsoft has partnered with Black Radley and the Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery to create a solution that would react to museum patrons when they interact with exhibits based on their approximate age, gender, and emotional state. Additionally, the solution would provide detailed information on how customers pass through the museum, which exhibits they linger on and for how long. The aim was to solve the problems that museums face to make exhibits more attractive to clients and to better understand how clients use museums.


Microsoft has provided tools to help museums improve exhibits by using cognitive intelligence to deliver a tailored experience based on demographic information and tracking and reporting on how customers interact with exhibits and the museum in as a whole to enable the museum to report to funders and better understand their clients. Prerequisite tools such as Visual Studio Code, Cognitive Services Face API, Azure subscription to use Azure App Service and Azure Table storage, Windows 10 IoT Core on Raspberry Pi 3 and Power BI have been released by Microsoft. This solution has helped museums improve the visitor experience and understand how visitors react to exhibits. By working with Microsoft and using Visual Studio, Black Radley was able to accelerate with a working solution within days.

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Steven L. Nielsen