Removing the barrier of distance with robot-guided virtual museum tours

AARNet infrastructure underpinned an Australian government-funded CSIRO and National Museum of Australia (NMA) partnership to develop and trial the technology that allows remote visitors to take a virtual tour of a museum using a mobile telepresence robot and a broadband Internet connection.

“Today’s students love technology and integrating technology in education every day helps students stay engaged and prepares them for the future. This is a great example of an innovative program that not only integrates technology and engineering concepts, it also brings the history curriculum alive in a new and exciting way to students all over the country” –  Chris Hancock, AARNet CEO

Telepresence robot

CSIRO developed the technology and installed a system that enables students and teachers in regional Australia to participate in live, immersive, interactive, guided tours of the NMA from a computer in their school or local library.

Multiple students can share the robot, tour the galleries of the museum at the same time and have a unique visual experience

Operating in seven galleries encompassing the history and culture of Australia from the early years to the present, the system consists of a semi-autonomous mobile robot which accompanies a museum educator through the gallery and streams panoramic video from an  omni-directional camera via the museum’s wifi network.

Looking around the gallery

Using a standard PC, headset, web-camera, and broadband Internet connection using the AARNet Network to and from the NMA, remote students log in and use a browser-based interface to look around the gallery by panning and zooming within the panoramic image.

Students can click on highlighted objects within their field of view to explore additional digital content associated with those objects, and are challenged to respond to real-time quizzes posed by the educator.

The students can see, hear, and interact with the educator and other students via a video-chat system that is integrated into the browser-based interface.

Overcoming limitations

This mobile telepresence system overcomes the limitations of exisiting one-to-one systems by using a panoramic video camera system, an innovative network architecture that scales, and the high-speed broadband provided by the AARNet Network. This combination of elements allows multiple connections from outside the museum to the robot (currently up to sixteen simultaneous connections).

The result is that multiple students can share the robot, tour the galleries of the museum at the same time and have a unique visual experience. They can each interact with the museum educator and watch and hear one another interact – just as if they were together in the gallery.

Interactive, real time and visually rich programs such as the Museum Robot program demand a high-bandwidth low-latency network to ensure a high-quality remote classroom experience.

Published: 10/2015

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