Setting up an iPad as an in-gallery touchscreen

An iPad can be a great device for a public-facing interactive like Curio. The form factor is small and light, and there are many “tamper proof” secure enclosures available off the shelf.

As with any touchscreen, you need to make sure that the public can’t  break out of your application, and Apple have made some tools for exactly that. The trouble is, it’s not all that intuitive, so our hardware expert, Rex McIntosh, explains how to set your iPad up for success:

  1. First, you want the iPad to stay awake, so ensure the power adaptor is always plugged in.

  2. Next, enable the auto-lock so the screen never goes to screensaver/black. Do this by going to Settings, Display & Brightness, Auto-Lock, and select Never.

  3. That’s the basics handled, now you want to lock the iPad down, so users can’t access the power button, or swipe up from the bottom and open other applications. It’s known as “Guided Access”. (Note: this has changed in the latest version of iOS 12.1.1 which has caused frustration for existing users of IPads - if that’s you - read on, help is at hand.)

  4. To do that go to: Settings, General, Accessibility. Scroll to the bottom to find “Learning, Guided Access”. Turn on “Guided Access”

  5. Next, you need to create a Passcode, so you can stop Guided Access if you need to do anything to the iPad. Go into Passcode settings and input a PIN.

  6. Next, turn on “Accessibility Shortcut” so that triple clicking the home button will enable and disable the lock-out. (This lets you break out of Guided Access mode, and you’ll be asked for your Passcode - again so if visitors did happen to triple click the home button, they’d need a Passcode to break out of the Curio application).

  7. Then, here’s the real trick to ensure the screen really doesn’t go into screensaver mode - from within the Guided Access setting, turn on “Mirror Display Auto Lock” this ensures the lock time you set earlier also applies when the iPad is in the “Guided Access” mode.

  8. Last step - promise - now run your Curio software (the interactive you’ve made) and click the Ipad home button three times (quickly). That will bring up a prompt offering you the choice to START Guided Access. Do that, and you’ll be locked (literally) and loaded. Later, when you want to quit the interactive - repeat this step and turn the Guided Access back off again to exit Curio.

If you have issues - do make contact with us, we have a LOT of experience with in-gallery technology!

Emily standing next to our demonstration iPad, in a stand, at the Alliance of American Museums awards night - did we mention Curio won SILVER??

Emily standing next to our demonstration iPad, in a stand, at the Alliance of American Museums awards night - did we mention Curio won SILVER??

Collaborating with your colleagues

A great feature of Curio is that you can invite colleagues to join your account. That means you can:

  • work on a project together - imagine getting someone to add the translations direct into the software; or add the image caption text in for you? (Think of the email trails you’ll save!)

  • share the analytics so others can see how the interactive is being used, and even compare performance between similar interactives.

  • create a customised “theme” which sets the onscreen elements such as text or buttons, in terms of their colours, layout, size and shape. You can name that theme and then it is available for anyone else in your organisation to use. This could be a theme set to match a specific exhibition design, for example, and you could even ask the exhibition designer to join the account and set those styles for you. (There’s more on customising the look of your interactive here. )

inviting someone to join your organisation

To invite someone to join your organisation, simply go to your Account/Organisation and there you will see a unique combination code. They can then go to the Sign Up page, create an account, and click “Join an existing organisation” where they can enter your unique organisation code:

org code.png

If you need to remove someone - we can manage that for you. We’re here to help you, every step of the way.

Accessibility - how to reach all your audiences.

Accessibility is a key priority for museums everywhere as we all strive to be inclusive for everyone visiting the museum. Curio is designed to make it super easy to reach a variety of audiences and I’d like to share some tips on how you can do that.

Audio descriptions for sight impairment.

First, let’s think about those with impaired sight, or even total blindness. Adding an audio track where you describe the object in detail allows those visitors to “see it” by listening.

audio description for blind.jpg

In this case we’ve done this by using the “Overview” button, and adding an audio track to that. The track can then be selected and played for visitors. The description covers things we may take for granted like the size of the object, it’s mood, colours and story, as well as its physical attributes.

Including sign language

There are a few ways that you can include sign language using Curio. In New Zealand it is an official language that we simply don’t see enough of. You would need to shoot the video and we have a lot of experience and can help you with advice and contacts. (Contact us for any help at all.)

First, you can add sign language videos into any highlight by uploading them as you would a normal video.

add sign language.jpg

Secondly, you use the language function to add another language. Having done that you can name the language by editing its display name. This could then display a language button (e.g. “a Deaf perspective”) and all the content on each highlight could be told from that perspective. It means sign language videos could be included as an alternative for this “language” and audio tracks could be replaced with sign or text alternatives.

(This can easily apply to a number of specialist audiences; the example below is content catering for younger children)


adding subtitles to video

Another way to make video content accessible for those who can’t hear is to add subtitles.

video subtitles.jpg

To do that you add your subtitle file (.vtt) as you would for, say, a You Tube video, when you upload your video.

It’s worth remembering that subtitles aren’t always the easiest way to “watch” a video as reading at the pace of someone talking can assume excellent language and reading skills, plus you can miss much of the imagery when you’re busy reading.

Keep text legible

Another thing to think about is ensuring your on screen text is easy for everyone to see. Curio has a fabulous customise tool to let you select colours, fonts, sizes and background colours. As you do all that though, our advice is to publish the interactive to the actual screen you will be using, to test how it looks.

font sizes.jpg

One of the most important things to consider is keeping a really good contrast between the background colour and the font colour.

When you think you’ve got it right - ask a variety of your visitors for feedback. Check in-situ too, to check for legibility in the light conditions of the actual space it will go in, as well as the actual screen size.

Consider the physical ergonomics, as well

Finally, take a look at the height and position of your touchscreen. Try using it yourself by sitting in a chair, and imagine you don't have great use of your upper body - how is reaching for those buttons? Where are the speakers positioned? Is there glare on the screen?

When you think you've got it right, check in with your community and invite them to test it for you. 

useful links

There are many great resources out there to assist you with things like:

put yourself in their shoes

To truly embrace accessibility, the very best things you can do are:

  • think - imagine your experience from another perspective; how would someone with different physical capabilities experience it?

  • listen - start conversations with those in your community who can give you first hand feedback.

  • watch (& learn) - observe different people encountering your space and experiences, and note what works and what doesn't.

Keeping our minds, hearts and eyes open can simply be the best thing we can do to be truly inclusive. 


You can add languages to your interactive by selecting a language from the drop down list, and then adding it. Once added, you can change the display name on the language button by clicking on the pencil and editing the name. This is really useful if you want to use special characters, or a more meaningful language name for your audiences.  

Once you've added a language you will see the language tabs appear at the top of all your content cards and you can put the alternative language content in there. Your translator can log in and do this directly into the project, if you prefer. 

language change name.png

Publishing your interactive - ta-dah!

Here's some tips on the wonderful moment when you get to publish your interactive creation:

  • First you need a touch screen to publish to. Click on "screens" in your top menu to see what screens are available to you (or your organisation). You'll be able to see what projects are currently published to which screens, and how many screens you have left in your current licence. Click on any of those screens to change their name, or select a new project to publish to it. 
  • If you don't have a screen yet, or need another added, then you can do that easily. To do that, you need to download the Curio Player onto that computer. You'll see links there to the players for both Apple and Windows
  • Once you have the player downloaded onto your computer/touchscreen, the player will display a registration code. Enter that code into your screen manager on your Curio account, and that will then pair that screen to your account. From there, you can publish to it anytime. 
  • You can also schedule your publication, if say you have made a version of your interactive for the holiday season, so it can be published on the day and time you want it. 

Got Questions? Stuck? Contact us - we are super happy to help you. 

Previewing your interactive

If you want to check out what your interactive might look like on your touchscreen, you can preview it first. Once in that mode click "Generate preview" and then you can see it for yourself. 

You'll also see choices on the menu on the left, to select different screens you may be publishing to. Because Curio is designed to publish out to touchscreens, the interactions will not work perfectly in your browser. 

I find that the very best way to get a good preview, especially when testing out my font sizes, is to publish to the actual screen I will be using.   Email us if you have any questions - we have decades of expereince and we're here to help!

I find that the very best way to get a good preview, especially when testing out my font sizes, is to publish to the actual screen I will be using. 

Email us if you have any questions - we have decades of expereince and we're here to help!

Customising the look of your interactive

The new customisation feature in Curio lets you craft your interactive to suit your style or brand. You can fuss over the size and shape of your highlights; change & colour your fonts and button shapes; and more. All of this can be saved into a theme which can be accessed by anyone else in your organisation too.

We know you love making your own interactives - now you get even more creative!

Here's what the various customise functions do:

1. Theme

Default themes:
These are themes created by the team here at Curio, free for you to use. If you make changes to them, you can save them as a custom theme of your own. They set consistent fonts and sizes and colours for an interactive. 

Custom Themes:
Themes you create can be shared by all the people and projects within your organisation. This means you can make a theme for an exhibition, to be used by all the interactives. 


2. Interactive

Background colour:
Update the interactive background colour to match your hero image.

Content card colour:
This will update the background colour of the highlight and overview cards. Be mindful to keep a high colour contrast with this colour and the font colour. That will make it easy to read.

Title and subtitle:
Align your titles to the left or the right of the hero image. This will also position the language options on the opposite side of the screen to the title.

Align your overview buttons to the left, centre or right of the screen.

Content Card:
This lets you select where you want the content cards to appear: floating over the highlight, or stacked off to the side of the interactive (left or right).

This allows you to adjust the time it takes for the interactive to take itself back to the start (the zoomed out hero image) if there's been no interaction. The default time is 3 minutes (180 seconds) but you might want to adjust this. 

If an audio (or video) track is playing, then that still counts as if someone is interacting - so the "no interaction" time is when no touches are detected, and no media is playing. 


3. Highlights

Chose from three different highlight styles.

Set the size of your highlight on top of your hero image.

Un-selected colour & opacity:
Set the colour and opacity of the highlights before a user clicks on them.

Selected colour & opacity:
Set the colour and opacity of the highlight a user has clicked on.

This will add a soft shadow to your highlight icon.


4. Fonts

The main title for your interactive, this sits above the hero image.

The subtitle for your interactive, this sits below the main title.

Content headings:
This is the typographic style for text headings in a highlight or overview.

Content body:
This is the styling for paragraph text within a highlight or an overview.

This is the styling for the text that accompanies an image within a highlight.

Font Sizes:
You'll need to keep in mind the size of the screen you are publishing to. Publishing to an iPad, for example, your font size should be at least 20px for legibility. 


5. Buttons

Button typography:
This sets the font, style and size of the font within the buttons.

Selected button:
This is the styling of the language and overview buttons that a user has clicked on, or is currently open or active.

Un-selected button:
This is the style for buttons that a user hasn’t selected, such as another language, or a closed overview.

Corner Radius:
This is where you change the button corner style. 100% will create buttons with perfectly circular corners, where as 0% will have buttons with square corners.


6. Audio

Primary Colour:
This is the main colour of the audio player.

Secondary colour:
This is the colour of the middle line that animates on as the audio plays, showing progress through the track.

This user generated theme (which they’ve called GBTB) shows how comments style highlights are used as well as poppy vibrant colours.

This user generated theme (which they’ve called GBTB) shows how comments style highlights are used as well as poppy vibrant colours.

Hero images

The hero image you use for your interactive is the main star of the interactive. It's the first thing visitors will see. It's super important it's as good as it can be so here are some tips:

  • It's best to use .jpg files and to make sure they are large in file size - a few Megabytes is a good sign (up to 10Mb). That means visitors will be able to zoom in on the detail of the image. 
  • Make sure it's a good quality image - if it's a single object it should be well lit and just contain the object itself. (You could always crop the image to help that)
  • It's probably best if it doesn't have a border or anything around it, just the image itself.

The best uses for overviews

Overviews are additional buttons that appear on the main menu of your interactive. They're in addition to your highlights, but they are not related to a specific detail. 

You don't have to have any overviews, so only add them if they enhance the experience. 

Great uses of overviews can be:

  • More about the creator, artist, owner, etc. If you can shape these to be relevant to THIS object or image, that would make it even better. 
  • Information about the era, the style, or generic context that gives the visitor more to appreciate about what they're seeing. 
  • Associated media, such as a poem or a song that belongs with the image or objects and helps you look at it in a new light. 
  • Other languages or perspectives. It could be used to offer a specific cultural perspective, or even a story in another language.
  • Adding accessibility. Using an overview for something like an audio description of a painting for a blind person to listen to, is another great way to broaden your audeince and easily cater for a variety of needs. 

Once again, less is more, every overview adds a button to your main menu. 

Keep the names of your overviews to one or two words, so they make a good button size, and are clear indicators to the visitor or what's behind this button. 

Overviews are a great way to add context. 

Overviews are a great way to add context. 

When to have a title

First of all, you don't need to have a title. So, only have one if you need it. Sometimes, an image on its own, is an interesting enough way for a visitor to simply start exploring, and discover your stories for themselves. 

A title can be used to simply flag name of the object, image or document. 

You could also add a logo or exhibition title, if that's what is needed. 

Keep it short, this is not the place to say anymore other than the main heading. 

Making great highlights

A great highlight is one that lets a visitor zoom in and discover a story that makes them take a second look at the object. It'll get them thinking, exploring, and it will likely be the story they take away with them and tell others about. 

It answers, succinctly, the question: "What's so great about this?"

First, find the details of your object or image that have the very best stories, those ones that visitors find the most interesting. 

Add these highlights to your hero image, and think about the best media to bring them alive. Our top recommendation is audio. To a visitor, hearing an expert, or someone with a special association with an object or image, talk about what's so special about it is the most engaging experience. It's like having an expert right beside you. Read our tips page on how to make the best audio recording. 

You can also add images to your highlights which can be there to enhance the story, as well as text. 

Some don'ts:

  • Don't repeat a highlight. Even if there are two things the same, or two places to tell the same story, make a new highlight for each one and offer another perspective. If a visitor clicks a highlight and hears the same content they had on another highlight, then they will feel lost. "I've been here already". Otherwise, tell a story well, and tell it once. 
  • Brevity is your friend. Use of both audio and text should be kept to an easily digestible length. No one wants to read an essay, or listen to a lecture in this environment. Keep it short, and get to the most interesting bits as quickly as you can, that will keep your visitor fully engaged.
  • Don't overcrowd it. It's so easy to add highlights, but consider your visitor. Any one of those highlights could be the first thing they click on - will it be their last, or is it interesting enough to get them exploring more? Less, but brilliant, highlights are better than too many. It's ok to leave them wanting more. 
Highlighting the most interesting parts of an object can really bring it to life. 

Highlighting the most interesting parts of an object can really bring it to life. 

Recording Audio

Audio is a brilliant way to tell a stories in Curio. Here's our tips on how to record great sound bites for your interactive:

1. Be focused - imagine a visitor has asked "what is so special about this object?" and you only have a few seconds to intrigue them. 

2. Record it as an interview - The best way to make a recording is to literally conduct an interview with your chosen expert(s), where you ask questions about specific parts of the hero image, as if you were a visitor, "what's this here?" and let them answer. (You'll have to stay quiet in the background!)

3. Recording equipment - you can use a specialist recorder, if you have one, or attach an external microphone onto your smart phone, or even the smart phone's built-in microphone. We've got a specific Tips page on this, that will let you hear the difference between these approaches. 

4. Choose a quiet space - ideally you would record in an audio studio, but not everyone has access to one of those. A quiet room, with some soft furnishings (close the curtains), will do.

5. Keep the sound bites short - choose the most interesting point, one at a time, and stay focused on that one. If you or your interviewee can tell the story in 30 seconds - 1 minute, that's probably the sweet spot for most visitors. 

6. Use a prop - have the object, or a print out of the hero image, with you. Then you can focus in on the detail, as the visitor would. (You could also record right in front of the real object, if it's quiet enough)

7. Don't read a script - certainly work out what you, or your interviewee, are going to say, but record the audio more like you would an interview. Tell the story as if you are talking directly to a specific visitor.

8. Editing the audio tracks - even the most polished speaker will need some editing, just to take off the gap at the start (the audio needs to start straight away) and the end. You can use professional software (like Adobe Audition) or there are free programmes you can download. We've got a specific tips page on editing audio, to help you with this.