Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

National Museum Robots

A screen shot showing the robot’s viewpoint during an interactive school program.

Carl Smith, National Museum robots offer virtual field trips to remote school students, ABC News, 23 October 2014

Two robots are helping hundreds of school students in rural and regional Australia learn about the Murray-Darling Basin and the country’s water supplies.

During National Water week, the robots have followed a tour guide at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra, streaming a panoramic and interactive feed to dozens of classrooms across the country.

Tour project manager Robert Bunzli said the cutting-edge technology could be used to teach students about water use and sustainability.

“This is the most advanced museum robot in the world,” he said.

“There’s a whole lot of iPads zooming around various museums, but they’re not interactive and they’re not panoramic and immersive.”

He said a single “tele-presence robot” could carry the interactive tours into dozens of classrooms at once.

“They’re essentially dialling in from their classrooms to one of our museum galleries,” he said.

“This gallery looks at the geology and the environment of Australia, and some of the influence on water sustainability in communities.”

Museum director Mathew Trinca said about 1,000 students had toured the museum via robot this year and he expected thousands more would use the technology in coming years.

Talking to students via one of the robots he said, “he can connect to all of you and also to other guests that I know are watching this in Canberra, Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane.”

Director of Education at the Murray-Darling Basin Authority William Inveen said he had uploaded interactive exercises and information for students to engage with during the tour.

“This is not just a video camera on wheels, they have the opportunity to interact with us, ask us questions, make comments,” he said.

Mr Inveen said the prototypes could be the future of field trips.

“We use a lot of video conferencing these days, and this is the next step,” he said.

“This is interactive video conferencing and it is definitely where education is going.”

Robert Bunzli said once the technology was refined it could also be used in other circumstances.

“I’m sure that you’ll find other industries are quite interested in exploring how this immersive experience can help them,” he said.

Council of Australasian Museum Directors c/o Lynley Crosswell, Museums Victoria, GPO Box 666, Melbourne VIC 3001, © CAMD 2023
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