Latest Research Highlights

Will Omani museums use a guide robot?

10 Dec, 2023 | Return|

Can museums replace the tourist guide with the guide robot? The answer is revealed by several studies that confirm, day after day, the global trends in favor of robotics. The guide robot can provide correct information and work round-the-clock using “deep learning”, an AI method that teaches computers how to process data in a manner inspired by the human brain.

In this context, Dr. Ashraf Ismail Selim conducted a study to develop a vision-based navigation system using deep learning. The study aimed at endowing a mobile robot with real-time navigation ability in a dynamic unstructured environment. The Omani National Museum (ONM) was used as a case study.

The researcher conducted a comprehensive literature review to help summarize, evaluate, and interpret the latest technologies and methods used in the robotic navigation system. Next, AI algorithms were tested in simulation, and an automated structure was designed and manufactured in addition to operating an electronics system. The movement of the robot (without AI) was tested and an AI-based navigation algorithm was implemented, in addition to the human-robot interaction. The entire system was then tested and validated. Subsequently, the researcher designed and built a prototype of the Museum Guide Robot (MGR) to be used in the ONM. It consisted of a suitable mechanical structure fully equipped with sensors, actuators and controls, a navigating system that allowed the automated robot to move safely and reliably through crowds, and a human interaction system to allow interaction with people in an intuitive and attractive way. It also contained a smart controller that interpreted the environment, and planned its movements using AI-based algorithms so as to avoid barriers and generate movement commands.

Under normal circumstances, the robot acted as a screen to display relevant instructional content to guests, but when called upon for guidance, it quickly switched to another mode, as it navigated the museum with tourists. It also demonstrated the ability to interact with guests via voice media, by explaining exhibits, receiving questions, as also recognizing and answering the most frequently asked questions.

The recommendations of the study indicated that the use of the MGR would enrich smart tourism in Oman, by facilitating group tours and making them more attractive. The robot prototype showed an ability to move effectively among different stations and interact with guests via its screen. Based on the successful implementation of the prototype, the researcher recommended the marketing of the product and its use in Omani museums.

Tourism is expected to be one of the main sources of income for the national economy of the Sultanate of Oman, in the near future. Therefore, furnishing Omani museums with the latest technology will enable them to deal effectively with large numbers of visitors from various countries.