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Robot-guided Tour of WWII Museum in Singapore

The Changi Chapel and Museum (CCM) presents new content and artefacts in an intimate and engaging format to tell the story of prisoners of war and civilians interned in Changi prison camps during the Japanese occupation. The National Museum of Singapore, which manages CCM, has been collecting stories and personal objects from families of former internees to highlight their personal experiences since its renovation.

With this, CCM debuted Temi, a museum guide who moves around on wheels and greets visitors with audio and videos displayed on a flat screen. Temi is a commercial robot that has been programmed and trained to be a tour guide for the museum depicting life as a POW during WWII. The museum’s narrative focuses on remembrance and reflection, encouraging visitors to consider both the hardships endured by the internees, as well as their courage and resilience in the face of adversity.

Temi, despite being petite and reaching the waist level of an average adult, possesses the necessary intellect and wisdom to navigate and lead museum visitors through various exhibits entirely on its own.

By narrating tales and playing videos that provide context for the visible physical exhibits, it improves visitors’ museum experiences. All visitors need to do is sign up at the door and communicate with Temi using the touchscreen. As a result, visitors can use Temi whenever they like rather than having to wait for scheduled tours led by human tour guides.

The National Heritage Board contacted GovTech for solutions to support its human tour guides at the beginning of the project. The team decided to build its mechanical tour guide on top of an already-built, commercially available robot after carefully weighing their options.

Engineers from GovTech created a customised app to show the videos to visitors. They also took care of mapping Temi’s path through the museum. This involved mapping out each stop along the tour route so that the robot could move independently.

Temi uses a lidar sensor to detect obstacles in its path, so it won’t run into other people or things that are in the way. Additionally, contractors were hired to apply stickers to specific translucent glass doors so that Temi would recognise the door as something it should avoid.

Temi also can find its way back to the charging station when its battery is running low, so carrying it back is not necessary. Additionally, the robot can send signals that cause automatic sliding doors to open and remain open as it passes through.

Additionally, it can automatically reduce the volume of nearby exhibit videos that are also playing. This helps users concentrate on the information that Temi is presenting. The volume of the exhibit videos will return to its original setting once Temi has moved on.

The GovTech team had to retrofit Temi with some DECADA Edge hardware to make these features available. The gadget functions as a gateway to control the sound system’s volume reduction and opening of the glass doors. This is accomplished by the robot communicating with other sensors by relaying and sending messages from the robot.

Changi Chapel and Museum serves as a proof of concept for Temi. If the guide proves to be popular with museum visitors, additional robot guides of the same type will be deployed to other museums so that more visitors can benefit from them.

There is also the possibility of expanding Temi’s capacity to interact with other technological equipment. Temi can be programmed to coordinate a fully synchronised visual and audio show, for instance, by connecting to various lighting, sound, and IoT systems. This will create an immersive tour experience that engages the various senses of visitors.

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