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Barcelona museum welcomes new guide, Pepper the robot

Machine can move around European Museum of Modern Art explaining artworks to visitors

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19 May 2021 05:36 PM

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ACN | Barcelona

The latest addition to Barcelona's European Museum of Modern Art (MEAM) isn't an abstract painting or an imposing sculpture, but a robotic museum guide called Pepper.

Pepper first launched in Japan 2014 and, thanks to an application made by the Catalan company Yasyt Robotics, can now accompany visitors to MEAM and interact with them through a touch screen.

From Wednesday, the robot is able to offer information about five works from the temporary exhibition 'Women Painting (All over the World)', but there are plans to extend the offering as Pepper has "no limits," according to José Luís Infiesta, a founding partner of Yasyt Robotics (and a relative of the museum's director, José Manuel Infiesta).

Pepper robots – the "world's first social humanoid robot able to recognize faces and basic human emotions," according to its Japanese manufacturers SoftBank Robotics, have been used mainly in healthcare, education and commerce settings to date.

MEAM is the first museum to install one of the robots on a "permanent" basis, but it has also been used regularly in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC.

Two million points scanned

For months, tests have been carried out both within the museum and outside. In order to "recognize the territory," Pepper scanned the rooms identifying "about two million points" that allow it to know its location at all times.

Although the robot is also designed to recognize and respond to people's voices, due to the rooms' acoustics and in order to respect other visitors, at MEAM the interaction will be only through the machine's touch screen.

The museum director stressed that this robot isn't "competing with" or replacing the museum's human guides, which can still be booked as usual.

Pepper is able to communicate in 15 languages, including English and Spanish, and Infiesta is hopeful that "soon" the Catalan government and the company that owns the robot will come to an agreement that will allow work to begin on a project to add Catalan to the list.

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  • Pepper the robot at the European Museum of Modern Art, May 19, 2021 (by Pau Cortina)

  • Pepper the robot at the European Museum of Modern Art, May 19, 2021 (by Pau Cortina)