Robotics lab helps provide access to art for disabled people in self-isolation

Media Relations Team, 06 November 2020

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Robot in an art gallery.

Disabled people experiencing extreme isolation due to coronavirus can now use robots to remotely access one of Britain's most well-known art galleries, thanks to a unique Bristol Robotics Laboratory collaboration.

Telepresence robots, part of the D4D project, are being used to connect people who are experiencing extreme isolation as they are required to shield during the current pandemic.

Over the past few months, a robot has been used by Hastings Contemporary, the Sussex-based gallery, providing virtual tours for people who are isolated. Now a similar robot will be deployed at Philip Colbert’s exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery.

The virtual experience enables visitors to move around the gallery via their smartphone or computer and zoom into the detail of the paintings and sculptures on display.

Praminda Caleb-Solly, Professor of Assistive Robotics and Intelligent Health Technologies at the Bristol Robotics Lab, said: “There are numerous applications for telepresence robots within health and social care, and it is disappointing that we are not making more use of these to support people, particularly in these exceptional times.

“I hope the use of the telepresence robot at the Saatchi Gallery will help to normalise these technologies and make people more open and willing to explore their potential.”

Professor Martin Levinson of Bath Spa University, who leads the D4D project, said: “The Covid pandemic has served to augment a situation that already existed - the lonely, secluded lives of some people. We need to find ways of preventing this in the future. Technology is only part of the solution.

“We all share responsibility for the situation in normal times whereby elderly and disabled people can spend much of their lives in isolation. Let’s hope we emerge from all this as stronger and more compassionate communities.”

The tour programme will continue to run through lockdown. Bookings can be made on Eventbrite or via email:

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