News / coronavirus

Robot tours

By ellie pipe, Monday Mar 30, 2020

People in self-isolation can enjoy a guided tour of a famous British art gallery from within their own homes, thanks to a unique collaboration.

In a UK first, Bristol Robotics Laboratory has teamed up with Hastings Contemporary to offer art-lovers the chance to experience current exhibitions via telepresence robot technology, even while the centre is closed.

Praminda Caleb-Solly, professor of assistive robotics and intelligent health technologies at the Bristol Robotics Lab, said: “This is an excellent example of how robotics technology can be used to support people in difficult situations such as we are currently experiencing.

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“There are other applications for the use of telepresence robots within health and social care and I look forward to learning from our experiences at Hastings to apply elsewhere.”

Using a two-wheeled videoconferencing robot, the Double, an operator and up to five people can enjoy real time tours of the gallery and its exhibitions.

Esther Fox, Hastings Contemporary trustee and researcher on the D4D project, said: “This has been made possible by a partnership with a pioneering research programme D4D, which explores experiences of disability, social belonging and community engagement.

“Up until now we have been working with disabled people to explore how the telepresence robot might open up access to spaces they could not experience. Now many other people are in a similar position to disabled people, in that they cannot access spaces they could previously. We are excited to see how we can enable access to great art to combat isolation, particularly for those with underlying health conditions who are having to self isolate.”

The gallery is initially planning to offer robot-assisted guided tours of its current programme to visitors stuck at home, led by its curators and gallery team. It will also apply the technology further to allow artist-educators to facilitate interactive art lessons with children via robot.

The pilot will also help inform future research and development of the technology.

To visit the gallery and be one of the first people in the UK to experience this technology, email info@hastingscontemporary.org.

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