TWO ROBOTICS students from Aberystwyth University have come up with a new innovative way for their fellow students to search for library books at the University – by using a robot.
Robotics students Pasi Sachiti and Ariel Ladegaard have created Hugh, an artificially intelligent robot librarian, who will be able to tell where a book is kept after receiving a verbal book request and then show the student to the relevant shelf.
The students have combined existing robot technology with information from the University’s online library search facility, PRIMO, in order to make sure that Hugh will be a walking and talking library catalogue. He will have access to 800,000 books.
Pasi Sachiti and Ariel Ladegaard presented their prototype at a BCS Show & Tell event at Aberystwyth University on Friday 26th February, and have also called on fellow robotics and artificial intelligence students to contribute to the project’s development over the coming months. They aim to have a working robot in place to greet the new cohort of students in September 2016.
Ariel Ladegaard highlighted the areas of concentration during the next phase of development:
“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. And of course, in a quiet environment such as a library, should it have its own voice?”
Pasi Sachiti states that the key to Hugh’s success will be keeping things simple in order to get as many people to use it as possible:
“As many who use mobile phone apps know, the simpler the app is, the more people are likely to use it. We are adopting the same philosophy with Hugh; his job will be to listen to your request, find the book and take you there.”
He also hopes that Hugh is the first among many “narrowly artificially intelligent robots” able to undertake specific tasks in environments such as hospitals, care homes or supermarkets.
Elizabeth Kensler, Customer Services and Academic Engagement Manager for Information Services at Aberystwyth highlighted her excitement with working with the two robotics students to test the prototype in the future, saying:
“Libraries are always looking to apply technology to improve the services they provide and there are successful examples of technological solutions complementing staffed services in all libraries. However, a robot librarian that finds a book and takes you to the relevant shelf could well be a world first. 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. 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.”
You can find more information about the project, and get in contact with Pasi and Ariel at www.hugh.ai/.