updated 3/29/2011 4:47:03 PM ET 2011-03-29T20:47:03

WICHITA, Kan., March 29, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Kansas Museum of History is celebrating the state’s 150th birthday with unique 21st century virtual storytellers who come to life with a wave of the hand. Integrated Media Group (IMG) customized its gesture-driven ASK Storyteller with four distinct, holographic-like "personalities" who speak to visitors from a transparent screen.

IMG president Jason Opat shows part of the exhibit here and explains the technology that makes ASK Storyteller work.

"It’s a new way to share the stories of Kansas," says museum director Bob Keckeisen, who says they purposely didn’t choose actual historic figures, but representative characters instead from three periods in Kansas history.

A woman from the territorial period is concerned about the violence nearby, where free state  (antislavery) and proslavery forces clashed in Bleeding Kansas. Another is a turn-of-the-last century immigrant railroad worker. The railroads actively recruited these workers from throughout the U.S. and Mexico, providing free passage to Kansas.

"The third storyteller is a soldier from the Great War in 1918 (known later as World War I)," he says. "People may not realize that more soldiers died from influenza in 1918 than in battle. And Kansas was the center of the outbreak."

The first case was in Haskell County (Kansas). The virus was then carried to Ft. Riley’s Camp Funston, most likely by a soldier, where it spread virtually overnight. Infected troops landed in Europe, and the start of a global pandemic that killed 50 to 100 million people was underway.

 The dialog for each ASK Storyteller character is based on actual historical documents, and each character is portrayed by theatre students from Wichita State University.

"They just did an incredible job ‘becoming’ their characters," says Keckeisen. "Telling these stories in first-person provides a different learning experience. People love it."

Visitors can also access artifacts, historical papers, century-old Kansas maps and more. ASK Storyteller can measure which stories are most popular, and images and data can be refreshed as needed.

Making lifelong learning easy, history "lessons" entertaining

ASK Storyteller uses gesture-driven technology to deliver information in a fresh, informative and entertaining way. Historical data, information, images and video are delivered by a friendly, compelling "human" storyteller who quickly engages young and old alike.

"ASK Storyteller bridges the divide between archived information in databases and humans," says IMG’s Opat. "Gesture-driven technology and ASK Storyteller personalities make it simple and fun to learn."

The ASK Storyteller is the first that features more than one personality, a model that can be replicated and expanded for museums - with different content, storytellers and guides for individual exhibit areas.

How do they do it?

Each ASK Storyteller personality is created with an actor, green screen and digital audio and high definition video. IMG integrates sounds, images, animation and special effects -creating a lifelike virtual museum guide, sales associate or hospital volunteer, depending on client needs and industry sector.

ASK lives on a transparent screen atop a kiosk platform, or projected on an interior or exterior glass wall or transparent surface. Menu selections are made by pointing and waving at the screen. In effect, the customer’s hand and fingers become a (computer) mouse.

About IMG

ASK is a product of  Integrated Media Group, with headquarters in Wichita, Kan. IMG’s specialty is creating technology interfaces that make sense to humans. Its Autonomous Sales Kiosk combines a touchless interface, holographic-like screens, gesture-driven technology and robust databases in one package. ASK can serve big box and mid-size retailers, hospitals, museums, sports and entertainment venues, and more.

Schedule an ASK demonstration.

# # #

CONTACT: ASK Storyteller:
         Carolyn Russell, APR - Russell Public Relations - 316.932.9000 - ask@russellpr.com
         Kansas Museum of History
         Bob Keckeisen - 785.272.8681 x418 - bkeckeisen@kshs.org

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