Those who have followed by own thinking will understand how I have promoted the enhancement of the user experience at galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (GLAMS) through the use of mobile devices using our own Virtual Exhibition (for digital visitors) and Virtual Tour Guide (for physical visitors) which are extensions of our ETHER Base Collection Management System. Now there is an alternative which has been proposed, as the “Double Robot”, which can allow you to take over a robot at the museum, and take it around the space physically if you are unable to visit there yourself. This is effectively a form of the “Beam me up Scotty!” approach to teleprescence (i.e. being somewhere where you are not right now, if you understand my meaning).

I will say right away that I do not agree with this approach, and not because I wish I had invented this myself, but rather than there are better and easy ways which use the digital world to simulate physical presence rather than employing a robotic surrogate to drive around the museum on your behalf.

This Double Robot is relatively inexpensive, at $2000 per unit, and it has a robotic two-wheel base which uses gyroscopes to keep it upright. Its “head” is simply an iPad, and the entire device could easily go by the name “iPad on wheels” without detracting from its functionality. However, the use of the word “double” in its name means that it can double up for your being in a place, and there are many situations in which this can be really useful.

Check out the video on the company’s home page which shows simple examples of attending a class remotely and interacting with the class, and also in the workplace, for people who prefer to work from home or who have to visit many places in a single day (like me!).

I question the usage of this as a surrogate visitor (someone who walks around the museum for you) since I feel that a far better experience can be gained by exploiting the interactive power of the modern mobile devices rather than simply “being there”. I also wonder about traffic control if there are hundreds of these surrogate robots, each being managed by some remote users own iPad, and then having to navigate around each other and the other physical visitors who are talking a quiet relaxing walk through the gallery or museum, and now have to be aware of “BEWARE: Robots Crossing!” signs.

However, they may prove very useful in cases in which you want to inspect your museum stores for any particular problems in the store, without having to actually be there, which may prove very useful if your store is 100km from where you are right now.

Let us watch this space and see what happens. I have no doubt that these remote-controlled robots have a large part to play in our future, so long as we can find great things for them do to!