Hastings Contemporary offers robot-assisted gallery tours

Hastings Contemporary gallery and Bristol Robotics Lab have teamed up to provide robot-assisted exhibitions during the coronavirus shut-down.

Art lovers will be able to visit Hastings Contemporary remotely with a video conferencing robot
Art lovers will be able to visit Hastings Contemporary remotely with a video conferencing robot

In a UK first, art lovers will be able visit the gallery remotely by using the Double, a two-wheeled videoconferencing robot that guides an operator and up to five people through real-time tours of the building.

Users will also be able to take in the excellent views over the Stade fishing beach and English Channel from the comfort of their own homes.

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The telepresence robot, which has been developed by Double Robotics, offers a potentially revolutionary way for arts organisations to overcome the barriers of self-isloation and social distancing.

Art lovers will be able to visit Hastings Contemporary remotely with a video conferencing robot

The gallery initially plans to offer robot-assisted guided tours of its current programme led by its curators and gallery team. Hastings Contemporary also wants to let local artist-educators hold interactive art lessons by taking children around the gallery via the robot.

Praminda Caleb-Solly, professor for Assistive Robotics and Intelligent Health Technologies at the Bristol Robotics Lab, UWE, said: “I am absolutely thrilled to team up with Hastings Contemporary as part of our Arts and Humanities Research Council D4D project to provide people who are socially isolated the opportunity to enjoy art via the telepresence robot. This is an excellent example of how robotics technology can be used to support people in difficult situations such as we are currently experiencing. There are other applications for use of telepresence robots within health and social care and I look forward to learning from our experiences at Hastings to apply elsewhere.”

Esther Fox, Hastings Contemporary Trustee and Researcher on the D4D project, said: “This has been made possible by a partnership with a pioneering research programme D4D, which explores how new technologies can change experiences of disability, social belonging and community engagement. Up until now we have been working with disabled people to explore how the telepresence robot might open up access to spaces they could not experience. We are now excited to see how we can enable a wider group of people to access great art and combat isolation, particularly those with underlying health conditions who are having to self-isolate.”

Liz Gilmore, Director of Hastings Contemporary said: “As we navigate through these testing times and manage the loss of important revenue streams, I’m thrilled to embrace such innovation and creativity. Our trials with the telepresence robot have buoyed the team here in Hastings and will enable a new and pioneering means of continued engagement with our visitors. Next week I will be leading some virtual tours to bring to life the incredible exhibitions on offer, prioritising people who are most affected by the lockdown and are now having to self-isolate for a number of weeks.”

The recordings of the tours will be made available to the public afterwards.

Hastings Contemporary also plans to develop a new online hub of art and mindfulness resources for the children of key workers, creating bespoke digital art lessons and creative learning activities, as well as virtual 3D renderings of its postponed spring shows – Victor Pasmore: Line & Space, Stephen Chambers: The Court of Redonda, and Quentin Blake: We Live In Worrying Times.

People who are interested in experiencing this new technology can email [email protected]

One-off donations to the gallery are now being accepted online. Visit www.hastingscontemporary.org to find out how you can contribute.

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