Art Galleries and Museums
Ohmni ® telepresence robot tour at Hastings Contemporary. Image copyright Hastings Contemporary.
Telepresence provides a fantastic opportunity for remote access to an art gallery or museum from anywhere in the World.
The technology provides an accessible option for those who might otherwise be unable to travel for a variety of reasons, including poor health (e.g., COVID), disability, or travel restrictions.
The bot’s mobile platform allows the visitor to explore an exhibition space and examine the items on display using the built-in camera to get the best possible view.
Case Study: Telepresence robot tours at the Hastings Contemporary
Funded by the Curating for Change project by Screen South and Accentuate, and in partnership with Robotics For Good, the Being Here project at Hastings Contemporary developed robot tours for groups and individuals in the local area unable to travel to the gallery.
Group tours for schools
The art gallery allows schools the experience of touring the art gallery through a shared link to the live robot camera feed.
The robot is driven around the gallery by one of the staff who shares their screen on a video call with the school using Microsoft Teams. [Other tools like Zoom can also be used]. The class receive a guided tour and can contact the guide so that the tour is updated in real-time to suit the children’s interests and feedback.
Using the robot technology has enabled the gallery to reach further afield to schools that would not normally visit the area, with the children able to visit the gallery from the classroom in a unique and fun experience.
Demonstrations and tutorials
As well as the art gallery tours, the robot is being used as a teaching aid, with students of any age or background able to join and benefit from demonstrations. The robot’s camera and audio allow enable a 2-way video conversation between teacher and student in real-time.
Accessible Access to the Gallery
In addition to the school visits, through a partnership with Accentuate, people with a range of impairments and health difficulties have been given the opportunity to visit the gallery through the robot. It means the gallery can reach people who have absolutely no means of physically accessing it.
Guided Robot Tours
The tours provided the opportunity for remote visitors to attend exhibitions from the comfort of their own home or community centre, reducing accessibility issues, logistical hurdles and Covid-19 concerns.
Individual visitors using the robot are able to drive around and experience the exhibitions with a local guide in a highly interactive and personal experience. In this respect it is also a great technology for people with social anxiety, and can be used to provide them a way to first meet up with people without the stress of being their in person. The idea here would be to use the robot to help someone to develop the confidence to take a step into the real world.
The immersive experience can be further enhanced by using a VR headset, through which the robot’s webpage can be accessed using a basic Browser. The VR headset provides a large screen view that covers most of what they can see, whilst helping to remove distractions in their local environment.
Feedback from robot users:
“You don’t have the stressfulness of having to navigate crowds when you’re in a wheelchair and mobility scooter”
“I feel you can better interact with the space, because you don’t have to deal with navigating crowds”
“You feel more like a human being rather than you’re in a lecture in college”
Image showing a user driving the Ohmni ® telepresence robot using a Meta Quest 2 Virtual Reality headset.
Robotics For Good C.I.C. involvement
As the technical consultants and robot supplier for the project, we selected and deployed the robot, providing training to the Hastings Contemporary team on the robot capabilities; giving advice and instruction on driving technique, support with scheduling robot calls and advising on how to share a live telepresence call using Microsoft Teams or Zoom. A key requirement of any telepresence experience is the presence of a good Wi-Fi connection for the robot throughout the space it is operating. As part of out consultancy work on the project we installed additional Wi-Fi Mesh access points to enable the robot to remain connected in the galleries.
In this film, staff and participants are interviewed about their experience of using a telepresence robot to gain access to the gallery remotely. It was shot on site at Hastings Contemporary by filmmaker Oliver Parkin, and produced by Esther Fox of Accentuate.
With thanks to our project partners: Hastings Contemporary, The Accentuate Programme, Screen South and Annabel Jackson Associates. Project funding from the Museums Association and the Arts and Humanities Research Council.