robot tour guide, chatbot among tech projects featured in new national gallery showcase

SINGAPORE – A robot tour guide and a chatbot helping users with directions have joined the list of exhibits at the National Gallery Singapore.

These are among several tech projects now on display at the Y-Lab Showcase, an area in the museum which was officially opened to the public on Thursday (Nov 25).

The area features tech prototypes designed by individuals and organisations that the museum has recently partnered with. The projects showcased will be changed every six months.

The Y-Lab Showcase currently houses 11 projects, of which about half are being deployed by the museum.

They include Temi, a robot that can take visitors on a tour of the exhibits in the museum, and the museum’s app, Gallery Explorer.

Temi has been deployed in the building’s DBS Singapore Gallery since September last year, but there are plans to expand its use to other galleries in the museum.

Gallery Explorer provides visitors with information on its artwork and features and offers self-guided audio tours, among other things.

The other projects being used by the gallery are the app’s features such as a chatbot which can answer common questions by visitors.

The remaining prototypes in the Y-Lab Showcase have either been trialled but have yet to be deployed by the gallery – such as another chatbot which helps visitors find their way around the building by giving them directions – or are still being developed.

The display area’s opening marks the launch of Y-Lab, an initiative between the gallery and venture capital firm Redshift Capital Partners.

The innovation lab aims to help organisations and entrepreneurs to launch or test their art and tech projects.

These projects include those intended to help artists with their work or enhance the experience of museum visitors.

In her speech on Thursday, the gallery chief executive Chong Siak Ching noted that many museums around the world already have their own innovation labs.

“There is a gap that we see as an opportunity to build the newest and also the largest museum in the South-east Asian region,” she said.

“And therefore we decided to take the step to find ways to incorporate as much innovation and technology in what we do – experiment as much as we can.”

But Ms Chong noted that the museum would not be able to do so on its own, emphasising on the importance of its partnerships with other organisations.

“So we are taking very small baby steps,” she said.

She added that the Y-Lab Showcase is the “first step in our… very, very long and continuous journey of innovation and creation”.

On Thursday, the gallery also launched its art and tech start-up programme, which seeks to help individuals and organisations develop their projects.

Proposals by applicants will be judged by a panel comprising the gallery’s partners in the public and private sectors, with up to 10 teams ultimately chosen.

Among other things, the selected teams will receive a $5,000 grant for product prototyping and will have their projects displayed at the Y-Lab Showcase.

“Solutions that show traction and promise may receive follow-on funding to scale across the arts and culture sector and even beyond,” said the gallery in a statement.

Interested applicants can submit their proposals by Dec 8, and those selected will be announced in February next year.

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