From Wednesday, 24 September, FROG (Fun Outdoor Robotic Guide), the tour-guide robot developed at, amongst others, the University of Twente, will guide visitors in and around the Royal Palace of Seville in Spain. The FROG is a unique, autonomous tour-guide robot capable of exploring its surroundings and independently guiding groups of people around cultural sites. At the same time, it monitors the behaviour of its audience and adapts accordingly. During the past three years, Twente (HMI research group) has worked intensively on the development of the robot, with the focus being on the interaction with people.
The FROG will guide tourists every day around the castle gardens and the castle buildings of the Royal Alcazar, the Royal Palace of Seville, with 5.000 visitors every day. Visitors are thus able to experience the Royal Alcazar in a completely new way. The FROG is autonomous, has a humorous personality, drives itself to and from its base and looks for people in order to show them around the palace in an interactive manner.
Where 'normal' tour-guide robots function as mobile audio guides, in museums, for example, the focus with this robot is on social interaction with (groups of) people.
FROG is able to project specific information about the location on the spot, also referred to as augmented reality. FROG makes it possible, for example, to portray yourself and your group in an important historical scene.
The robot's face recognition and navigation are very innovative. The FROG follows the tourists with its camera and measures whether they are interested by means of video analysis. It then adapts the content of its tour to this. Up until now, this was not possible in such situations with a lot of sun or a lot of shade.
People no longer an obstacle
The interaction that the campus robot has with its surroundings sets it apart from other tour-guide robots. Prof. dr. Vanessa Evers from the Department of Human Media Interaction (research institute CTIT) of the University of Twente was involved in the development. "The FROG constantly enters into dialogue with his audience and is capable of recognizing positive and negative emotions. The current generation of tour-guide robots tend to see people mainly as obstacles when they navigate, their only concern being to avoid collisions with those people. They stand still to say something, and that's all they do. The FROG actually focuses on interaction."
Meeting with King Willem-Alexander
A version of the FROG was shown earlier this year in public at the Hannover Messe, one of the largest technology fairs in the world. Around the same time King Willem-Alexander met the UT Campusrobot (FROG) during the opening of The Gallery, the new centre for innovation on the campus of the University of Twente.
Also in April, Vanessa Evers was a guest on the Pauw & Witteman talkshow, together with the robot. Here you can see the relevant episode of Pauw & Witteman or click on the image below.
The robot was developed with the aid of partners from the FROG consortium, which also includes Universidad Pablo Olavide (Sevilla), Imperial College London and the University of Amsterdam. Vanessa Evers is the project coordinator.֤