We are very proud to share that we were selected to receive a Knight Foundation grant! With our partners at Prime Access Consulting and Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, we'll be using voice technology to broaden access to museum exhibits through voice engagement. Take a look at the following press release for the exciting details!

Alley Interactive Awarded Knight Foundation Grant to Use Digital Voice to Engage People with the Arts

$50,000 Grant will Support Collaboration Among Alley, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York, and Accessibility Expert Sina Bahram

New York, NY, July 23, 2018 — Media technology company Alley Interactive has been awarded a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to use new technology to engage people with the arts, the foundation announced.

Alley received the award along with accessibility expert Sina Bahram of Prime Access Consulting and Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City. The three organizations will work together to build voice applications for services such as Amazon Alexa that extend the museum exhibition experience to remote users and those with physical or vision limitations.

“The internet has the possibility to democratize access to information, whether it’s to get news, make a purchase, or view works in a museum,” said Tim Schwartz, Alley Digital Strategist, who will lead the project. “Digital voice interfaces give us a new and powerful way to experience physical environments, allowing our ears and imaginations to guide us.”

The $50,000 Knight grant will support the development of an Amazon Alexa application that allows a remote visitor to explore an exhibition at Cooper Hewitt using only her or his voice. The application will respond with rich descriptions of objects in the gallery and deep contextual information that mirror the experience available in the physical museum.

Alley, Prime Access Consulting, and Cooper Hewitt will have nine months to develop a prototype, which they will demonstrate at a joint event in April 2019. The team will collaborate with eleven other grant recipients throughout the process to share ideas and techniques.

“We’re excited to push the boundaries of voice technology,” Schwartz said, “and to bring a museum experience to audiences who may not be able to see it with their own eyes.”

The grants were awarded as part of the Knight Foundation’s arts and technology initiative. More information about the grants is available at https://www.knightfoundation.org/press/releases/knight-prototype-fund-awards-projects-that-explore-avenues-for-connecting-people-with-the-arts-through-tech

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ABOUT ALLEY

Alley is a seasoned team of strategists, researchers, designers, and developers who craft custom digital experiences for publishers, nonprofit institutions, museums, and brands. Our expertise and years of experience in these areas allow us to provide industry-leading software development, user experience, visual design, data visualization, editorial workflow, and accessibility consultation. We look at our work in terms of products, not projects. Our clients are major influencers of public and industry opinion, including AAM, Freer|Sackler, and MCA Chicago. alley.co

ABOUT COOPER HEWITT

Founded in 1897, Cooper Hewitt is the only museum in the United States devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary design. Housed in the renovated and restored Carnegie Mansion, Cooper Hewitt showcases one of the most diverse and comprehensive collections of design works in existence. The museum’s restoration, modernization and expansion have won numerous awards and honors, including a Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award from the New York Landmarks Conservancy, a Gold Pencil Award for Best in Responsive Environments and LEED Silver certification. Ongoing exhibitions “Access+Ability” (through Sep. 3) and “The Senses: Design Beyond Vision” (through Oct. 28) provide a major platform for the growing movement toward accessibility and inclusive design, and are an integral part of Cooper Hewitt’s major effort to broaden access. From wheelchair accessibility to sign-language interpretation to touch tours and braille signage, the museum offers a variety of services for visitors who are deaf or have limited mobility or vision loss. Morning at the Museum, a free Smithsonian program for visitors with cognitive and sensory processing disabilities, takes place on select Saturdays one hour prior to the museum opening. The American Alliance of Museums Media and Technology Professional Network honored Cooper Hewitt with a 2018 MUSE Award for the accessible label system developed by Prime Access Consulting for “The Senses.” cooperhewitt.org

ABOUT SINA BAHRAM

Sina Bahram is an accessibility consultant, researcher, speaker, and entrepreneur. He is the founder of Prime Access Consulting (PAC), an accessibility firm whose clients include technology startups, research labs, Fortune-1000 companies, and both private and nationally-funded museums. Sina has a strong background in computer science, holding undergraduate and graduate degrees in the field.  As a recognized expert in accessibility, Sina enjoys collaborating with both colleagues in the field and individuals of diverse professions to devise innovative and user-centered solutions to difficult real-world problems. In 2012, Sina was recognized as a White House Champion of Change by President Barack Obama for his work enabling users with disabilities to succeed in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. In 2015, the international accessibility community recognized Sina as an Emerging Leader in Digital Accessibility at the annual Knowbility Community Heroes of Accessibility Awards. In 2017, Sina served as the invited co-chair of the 2017 Museums and the Web conference.

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