Developed by the museum together with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the $3.4 million project plans to have a working prototype of the robot ready by November.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the telepresence robot will be the height of an average adult and move along on motorised wheels. Special sensors and a global positioning system will prevent it from bumping into human visitors at the museum, or worse, from crashing into priceless artifacts.
The idea is that students located in other parts of the country, or world for that matter, will be able to enjoy a virtual visit to the museum. Using a computer to control the robot’s 360-degree camera, students will be able to view artifacts from any angle they wish.
Jonathan Roberts, research director at CSIRO’s Autonomous Systems Laboratory in Brisbane, told the SMH the robot could change the way educational establishments interact with institutions like museums.
“Currently they have to go on long excursions …. whereas with this sort of thing maybe they can visit for 45 minutes, within their normal lesson time,” he said.
If trials later this year prove successful, the robot could begin turning up in museums across the nation by the middle of next year.
Of course, nothing beats the up-close-and-personal experience when it comes to viewing a museum’s treasures. However, when its location means a visit is too costly or time consuming, a robot like this could be a boon for teachers and students alike.