Software Development

Smithsonian adds humanoid robots to help engage museum-goers

Pepper the Robot will be acting as a guide and greeting visitors at six museums.

The Smithsonian is bringing on extra help for the summer.

Humanoid robots, all of which are named Pepper, will be serving as guides at six Smithsonian museums. The 4-ft. tall robots, created by Softbank Robotics, are being introduced as part of a pilot. The robots were donated by the company.

At the Smithsonian, Pepper will be talking up attendees at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Museum of African Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Smithsonian Castle and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.

The Smithsonian wants Pepper to help direct attendees and interact with exhibits. Pepper can use voices and gestures to interact, and also shows images, text and video from a trust tablet. The exchanges are pre-scripted, as the humanoid technology cannot converse.

“Currently, Pepper can answer frequently asked questions, tell stories, and collect limited information, as well as dance, play games, and pose for selfies,” the Smithsonian states.

It’ll also help the Smithsonian engage around technology. The National Museum of African American History and Culture will utilize Pepper to draw attention to a VR exhibit about Rosa Parks. At the Hirshhorn Museum, it will help teach teens coding at its educational space.

Pepper has been a work in progress, making some pilot appearances in retail stores and at pizza shops. The Smithsonian is the first museum, research and education complex to engage with the technology. The ability to sense when people are nearby and engage them in conversation is key.

“We’ve seen how Pepper’s technology can completely transform consumer experiences in different types of environments. By interacting with museum visitors and providing insight on different exhibits, Pepper will help guide their educational experience through the Smithsonian that they otherwise might have missed out on,” said Steve Carlin, chief strategy officer of Softbank Robotics, in a statement.

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