Innovation That Matters

With galleries closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, at Hastings Contemporary you can still get your art fix | Photo source Will Barrett/Hastings Contemporary

Gallery pioneers remote art tours via robots

Arts & Entertainment

A UK gallery has started using telepresence robots for remote personalised gallery tours

Spotted: As billions of people around the world remain in lockdown as protection against the coronavirus pandemic, museums and galleries around the world have expanded their online presence. One small gallery in southern England, Hastings Contemporary, has now taken remote content one step further by using telepresence robots to give “live” tours of the gallery.

The robots consist of a small camera sitting on two large wheels and are often used for people stuck at home with ailments, compromised immune systems or disabilities to participate in school, work and social life.  

The museum has teamed up with the D4D project, Accentuate UK and the Bristol Robotics Lab at the University of the West of England to offer the opportunity to ‘visit’ the gallery during these unprecedented times. The tours use The Double videoconferencing robot, developed by the Bristol Robotics Lab. The robot allows a guide and up to five visitors to wander through the galleries at will. Users can zoom in on individual works, and take in the gallery’s much-loved views of the English Channel.

The gallery hopes that the use of telepresence robots could eventually help eliminate barriers to the accessibility of art. In a press release, the gallery’s director, Liz Gilmore, explained that: “Everyone can and should have the chance to experience art without walls or barriers, and we hope to be one of a cohort of independent galleries who will lead the charge to a more resilient, inclusive future.”

The programme is more interactive and immersive than other virtual museum experiences, such as those offered by Google Arts and Culture, which use photos taken by 360-degree cameras.

With large segments of the world’s population stuck at home, businesses, publishers and art outlets are all working hard to develop new ways of providing content for free. Some of the innovative ideas covered here recently include an events listings magazine that has rebranded to offer listings for things to do indoors and a beauty retailer that has moved in-store advertisers online.

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