GLAMs

Museum robot takes students on virtual tour

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The CSIRO’s Robot Project was officially launched at the National Museum of Australia (NMA) on 21 March 2013. The project, a partnership between CSIRO and NMA underpinned by AARNet, is trialling a service that allows remote visitors to take a virtual tour of a museum using a mobile telepresence robot and a broadband internet connection. Robots as an education tool in museums are not new, but this robot is unique because it allows remote visitors to personalise their exploration of the museum and their interactions with an educator.

AARNet and the National Broadband Network (NBN) provided the high speed broadband connection between the museum robot and remote students for the live demonstration at the launch event.

Led by an educator, the robot took students from remote sites on an interactive virtual tour around the National Museum’s Landmarks gallery, home to Phar Lap’s heart among other treasures.

The robot’s mobile telepresence technology enabled real-time interaction between the students, the National Museum educator and an expert at the Melbourne Museum where another piece of Phar Lap resides. A 360 degree panoramic camera allowed students to interact with the exhibits independently using their browsers.

This innovative technology combined with the rich collection of objects on display in the gallery brought a history lesson to life for the students in a new and exciting way.

The students talked directly to the museum educator and used various interactive elements such as polling, answering multiple choice questions, clicking on additional content and also individually used the camera to look at different objects.

Kiama Primary School students connected to the robot from individual computers located at Kiama Library, while a classroom of students at the Cathedral School in Townsville connected from a Smart Board.

“The experience for the students at each of the remote sites was a little different, but what this demonstrates is that if a broadband connection is available, the technology is adaptable for different environments and school resources,” said NMA Special Projects Manager Robert Bunzli.

AARNet is the provider of the high bandwidth R&E connection for many organisations involved in research and education, including the CSIRO, the NMA and the Melbourne Museum, and is also the service provider for the NBN for the Cathedral School in Townsville.

AARNet’s CEO Chris Hancock said the demonstration also illustrated that the distribution of interactive, real time and visually rich programs across Australia’s research and education network to NBN fibre connected schools ensures that the classroom experience is of a high quality.

“AARNet actively supports innovative technology projects like this that provide new and dynamic ways for students to be at the helm of their own learning,” he said.

The Museum Robot trial is also providing AARNet with an opportunity to model and understand network performance dynamics required to scale projects of this nature.

Dr Ian Oppermann, Director of CSIRO Digital Productivity and Services Flagship said the development of the CSIRO’s mobile telepresence robot technology will potentially allow all Australians with a broadband connection to experience and access a range of national treasures whether in a museum or under the sea at the Great Barrier Reef, when they can’t visit in person.

“This research project signposts the emergence of a technology that, in the near future, will be more intelligent, more agile and more common place across all aspects of our lives,” said AARNet CEO Chris Hancock.

Researchers developing innovative technologies of this kind that eventually become part of everyday life rely on the high performance and capabilities of the AARNet network.

Learn more about the CSIRO’s Museum Robot Project

Read the AARNews Interview with Dr Ian Oppermann


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