Taking a mobile tour can be a solitary pursuit. Wearing headphones may be the only way to achieve a truly immersive sound experience but then you’re isolated in your own world. It’s the reason we recommend using our Opus device as a “wand”—you have one ear free to listen to the sounds (and people) around you, which can be a vital part of a visitor experience. But these days, with ipods and smartphones, visitors are usually ear-budded to infinity.

So…how can you build community (even if for only a group of two) but still let visitors have the optimal aural experience?

One approach is to sprinkle a tour with questions or prompts from the narrator that will encourage conversation ….ie, “What shapes do you see in this painting? Talk it over with the people you’re with today…”  People can take off their headphones for a minute to chat. It’s especially effective in kids or family tours.

Another approach is suggested by a recent experience we had with “Remote New York .”  You can read the review of it here  (pretty spot on)…While it is an inherently individual experience (headphones, sound immersion, introspective questions asked), you never forget you are part of a group. This is thanks to the narrator, who provokes you into action—to kneel on the ground, to raise your arm, make funny gestures, run, dance or take a group selfie…and, thanks to remote triggering, you’re doing it all at the same time.

It forces you to stop, look around and remember you’re not alone even when it feels that way…and it’s a metaphor for the urban experience.  No wonder the group behind it has produced similar (if not the same) tours in many other cities around the globe.

So next time you’re taking a tour, you (and the people you’re with) may be asked to pose like a Degas dancer, or a Rodin thinker, or perhaps, to growl…