Advanced technology used in electronic tour guides and information kiosks

Montana State Roundup

Published October 1, 1995  | October 1995 issue

Applications of computer technology are bringing electronic tour guides and information kiosks to tourists in Montana.

Visitors at Yellowstone National Park and Little Bighorn Battlefield can rent portable computers with CD-ROM technology (Compact Disc-Read Only Memory) that plug into a car's cigarette lighter. A CD-ROM reads CDs that produce sound and video images on a computer screen.

The hand-held computers that weigh less than a pound have an easy-to-use 10-digit keypad, says Robert McCue, inventor of the program and founder of Tour Information Systems, based in Missoula. Different number combinations produce narratives over the car's FM radio system and pictures on the computer's built-in screen.

The CD-ROM gives you "on the spot sound and pictures to enjoy the feature that you see," McCue says. As you drive through the Little Bighorn Battlefield, for example, the CD-ROM program changes with the sequence of the battle.

Now in its third year at Yellowstone Park, daily rentals during peak season average 50 to 60. The computers are available at most hotels inside the park for $24.95 per day. Daily rentals at Little Bighorn Battlefield, which began in June, average 25 to 30 at a cost of $10.

In addition to hand-held tour guides, next spring tourists will find information at multimedia kiosks, called Superhosts, equipped with screens controlled by the touch of a finger. Travel Montana, the state tourism agency, is developing the kiosks as a convenient way to inquire about tourism-related services, says Shawn Peterson, Superhost program manager. The project is coordinated with 12 other national and state agencies.

The kiosks will have "the ability to use a variety of multimedia elements, including digitized audio, images and a limited amount of video," Peterson says. The first 10 kiosks will be constructed in April, each one holding 10,000 records, including updates on current events.

Travel Montana also offers a complete listing of Montana hotels and other tourism information on its home page via the World Wide Web, an easy-to-use network that allows users to navigate the Internet by clicking on graphics and highlighted text.

Currently, the Montana site has 700 pages of information; by the end of the year that will increase to 2,500, Peterson says. "We are trying to make the World Wide Web site an integral part of our marketing plan."

Rob Grunewald

Montana isn't the only district state with a tourism home page on the Web. Click on states below for more information on Ninth District tourism: