A walking, talking library robot could soon be lightening – or removing – the human librarian’s load after a prototype was created by robotics students.
“Hugh”, an artificially intelligent library catalogue, will be able to take verbal book requests, work out where the hard copy is and lead students to the relevant bookshelf.
Pasi William Sachiti and Ariel Ladegaard, the robotics students at Aberystwyth University who created Hugh, combined existing robot technology with information from the university’s online library search facility to create their brainchild.
“As many who use mobile apps know, the simpler the app is, the more people are likely to use it,” said Mr Sachiti, who has previously appeared on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den programme.
“We are adopting the same philosophy with Hugh – his job will be to listen to your request, find the book and take you there.”
Calling Hugh a type of “narrowly artificially intelligent robot”, he said that the design could be one of a line of robots that could undertake specific tasks in places such as hospitals, care homes and supermarkets.
But the model would need some perfecting first, according to Mr Ladegaard.
“The next phase is to look at how it moves around without bumping into people and library furniture, how it finds out where the books are, how it interprets voice commands, how it displays the information and what it looks like,” he said.
“And of course, in a quiet environment such as a library, should it have its own voice?”
Elizabeth Kensler, customer services and academic engagement manager for information services at Aberystwyth, said the “world-first” prototype had so far been received well by faculty members.
“The response of staff to the work done by Pasi and Ariel has been fantastic, and we look forward to working with them as they test the prototype over the coming months,” she said.
“It will be fascinating to see how students interact with it, particularly speaking to the robot in what is essentially a quiet area for study.”