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Robots are gaining adoption across a wide range of industries. Recently, the Smithsonian Institution has started to use Softbank Robotics’ Pepper robot to add value to the the visitor museum experience. In this podcast, Cognilytica analysts Ronald Schmelzer and Kathleen Walch interview Kristi Delich, Deputy Director, Office of Visitor Services, Smithsonian Institution on how Pepper is being used at the museum, potential future uses, and observations from how the general public interacts with a robot in a museum environment.
- Pepper the Robot at Smithsonian
- The Smithsonian’s newest guide is a robot
- Smithsonian Environment Research Center: The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center is collaborating with STEM students from South River High School in Edgewater, Maryland to program pepper as a science communicator. For their first task, students are programming Pepper to use hand-gestures that a science educator might use, like mimicking the opening and closing of an oyster shell. The students will continue to work with SERC during the next school year to determine the best ways for Pepper to share SERC research with the public.
- National Museum African American History and Culture: Attendance to the museum’s Rosa Parks virtual reality exhibit doubles when Pepper is present, introducing visitors to the activity and managing the line. Pepper is also being used to tell stories outside of the second floor gallery, welcoming visitors to the second floor galleries.
- National Museum of African Art: Pepper translates Kiswahili (kee-saw-hee-lee) phrases in the World on the Horizon exhibit and invites visitors to learn how to say certain phrases. Pepper also surveys visitors asking if they would be interested in coming back to visit upcoming exhibits.
- Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden: Pepper acts as an icebreaker between the public and the museum’s volunteer gallery guides. Pepper also starts conversations with visitors on objects that could otherwise be daunting to talk about, like “Big Man.”
- Castle: Pepper is located in the Commons, an exhibit hall tucked away in the back of the Castle. Not many visitors are aware what the Commons is or that it even exists. Pepper promotes all of our 19 museums, research centers, Zoo, libraries, and tells stories of the earlier years.
- ArtLab+: Pepper provides students from the DC area hands on programming experience. Students will learn Pepper’s software interface then Pepper’s programming interface and finally create custom applications to be used by robots in one or more Smithsonian museums. Artlab+ will be piloting course material for learning how to program Pepper with students that walk into ArtLab during its open studio hours. During the first phase of the program, the students will learn Pepper’s software interface. The interface has parallels to many other multimedia software applications for audio, video, and 3D editing programs, which allows students who visit ArtLab an easy way in, because the space provides free access to such multimedia tools. Once comfortable with the visual elements of Pepper and how they affect the physical robot, students will dive into the second phase, learning the software’s node-based programming interface. Pepper uses what is known as a visual programming language (VPL), allowing the user to connect the input and outputs of boxes, called modules, which tell Pepper to carry out different actions. The program will culminate a group of students creating a custom application to be used by robots in one or more of the Smithsonian’s museums