Exhibition technology

On robot guides

The robot guides are coming.

This isn’t entirely new – as some Japanese museums have been, unsurprisingly, experimenting with this for over a decade. One of my fondest science museum memories was stumbling upon a ‘bipedal robotics conference’ inside the Miraikan in Tokyo sometime in the early 2000s.

But this is slightly different and combines the potential of the ‘Roomba-Curator’ (hat tip to Aaron Straup-Cope for that phrase) with the growing trend for ‘school incursions‘ (rather than ‘school excursions’) but delivered over high speed broadband.

The robot is in preliminary design but expected to be the height of an average adult, have a motorised base with wheels and a “head” that is a 360-degree, panoramic camera.

It will find its way around the museum and avoid bumping into visitors and objects using sensors and a sort of global positioning system.
The robot is initially for the use of school students, who will each control the robot’s camera head using computers as if in a video conference.

The camera can transmit many views of an object simultaneously – from above or the sides and zooming in and out – so each user can control what they see.

I like that this lets multiple students control their view and zoom on objects of their own choosing.

But I’d really like this if it was deployed to the collection stores – the behind the scenes areas where museums keep all vast numbers of the objects they don’t have on exhibition.

Imagine an informational overlay using a collection API to pull up data on shelves and shelves of objects.

It won’t be far off.