Edutainment With Museums: How AI Can Make Museums Attractive Again


With chatbots, robots and AI, we can transform museums into playgrounds for modern minds.

When was the last time you strolled through a museum? For many, it might have been ages. While COVID did deal a major blow to museums worldwide, with social distancing reducing the number of visitors, the decline in museum interest predates the pandemic. Sadly, museums can’t seem to draw a crowd these days because, let’s face it, who wants to see old stuff when you can browse it all online with a simple click?

However, artificial intelligence (AI) is changing this narrative. By making historical data more accessible and enhancing visitor interactions, AI is helping museums reclaim their spot as the epicenters of entertainment and education. In this article, we dive into the diverse roles of AI in transforming museums into spaces full of life. 

Berenson: The futuristic art critique robot

Berenson, the robot art critic, silently judges art. 
Image by @quaibranly via Twitter

At the Musée du quai Branly in Paris stands an intriguing figure: Berenson, a robotic art critic with a flair for fashion, dressed in a bowler hat, coat and scarf. This unique innovation is the brainchild of anthropologist Denis Vidal and robotics engineer Philippe Gaussier. Berenson represents a fascinating blend of art and technology, employing AI and an eye-mounted camera to observe and analyze visitors’ reactions to artworks.

As visitors peruse the art, Berenson’s AI-driven system quietly gauges their responses. These observations are transmitted to a specialized computer program named Prométhé, which processes the data and categorizes reactions: green circles for positive responses and red circles for negative ones. Mimicking human interaction, Berenson reacts accordingly—it smiles and approaches an artwork if it perceives the general reaction to an artwork as positive. In case of negative feedback, it frowns and moves away.

While Berenson’s approach to art criticism may seem simplistic when compared to the nuanced analysis of human critics, it provides a novel and accessible way for museum visitors to engage with and reflect on the collective impressions of various artworks. It particularly resonates with those new to art, inviting them to consider and understand the wider public’s viewpoints on different artworks.

Pepper: Innovating museum tours with AI interaction 

Pepper, a humanoid robot deployed by The Smithsonian in its museums to enhance visitor engagement.
Image by The Smithsonian

In 2018, The Smithsonian, a renowned American art museum, introduced an innovative addition to its visitor experience: the Pepper robots. These engaging and friendly bots can sense when someone is nearby and strike up a chat. Pepper’s mission is to blend entertainment with education, thereby enhancing the overall museum experience. 

Pepper is capable of responding to common questions and sharing stories through voice and gestures. Beyond informational assistance, Pepper adds an element of fun by engaging in activities like dancing, playing games and even posing for selfies with visitors. This not only creates memorable experiences but also draws more people to less-visited areas of the museum.

One of Pepper’s most commendable features is its multilingual capabilities, allowing it to communicate with guests from various linguistic backgrounds. This functionality significantly contributes to breaking down language barriers, making the museum space more inclusive and accessible to a diverse audience.

The incorporation of AI-driven chatbots is not limited to the Smithsonian. Other museums, like the Cooper-Hewitt and the Carnegie Museums, also adopted similar technologies to enhance visitor engagement. A notable example is the Museum of Tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro, which features the IRIS+ chatbot. IRIS+ stands apart due to its learning ability, adapting from each interaction to offer more personalized experiences. In line with the museum’s core values, IRIS+ is committed to fostering an environment of inclusivity and diversity, reflecting the museum’s vision for a future where every visitor feels valued and understood.

Gamifying visitors’ experience with AI

Image by Case Museo di Milano

Besides interactive robots, museums are now embracing the concept of gamification to make visits more captivating. In Milan’s Case Museo di Milano, for example, visitors can go on a digital adventure and chat with virtual characters to learn more about the museum using chatbot technology. 

What’s more, the chatbot takes visitors on an exciting journey—a treasure hunt within the museum. Participants solve clues and answer questions about various artifacts, all part of a compelling narrative to outsmart a mysterious Renaissance wizard. This gamified approach not only adds an element of fun and interactivity to the museum experience but also broadens its appeal, attracting a diverse range of visitors, from curious children to history-loving adults.

“A Voz da Arte”: AI giving voice to artifacts 

Visitors can ask AI questions regarding selected paintings at the Pinacoteca de São Paulo and get personalized responses. 
A screenshot of The Voice of Art With Watson by Connexis Digital Mentors

In a pioneering initiative in 2017, tech company IBM partnered with the Pinacoteca de São Paulo, one of Brazil’s most prominent art museums, to enhance how visitors interact with art. The collaboration gave birth to the project “A Voz da Arte”, leveraging IBM Watson AI to create a more interactive visit. 

Instead of listening passively to traditional audio guides with pre-recorded clips, visitors can use their smartphones to converse with seven selected artworks from the Pinacoteca de São Paulo collection via an app. They can ask questions and receive dynamic responses from Watson, which uses advanced cloud computing technology to process visitors’ queries in real-time and provide informative responses. This interactive approach not only demystifies the art but also makes the museum experience more approachable and engaging for all visitors.

Fabiana Galetol, the External Communications Executive at IBM Brazil, encapsulates the project’s essence: “The ultimate goal is for people to end the visit by understanding a bit more about art and with the experience that the museum is fun.”

The Impossible Statue: AI’s role in redefining art in museums 

The Impossible Statue” is displayed at Stockholm’s Science and Technology Museum. 
Image courtesy of Sandvik 

AI’s potential extends beyond making visitors’ museum experiences more engaging—it could reshape art history itself. Image a world where the greatest artists of all time, like Michelangelo, Rodin and Takamura, come together and collaborate. This once-unimaginable synergy is now within reach, thanks to AI.

At Stockholm’s Science and Technology Museum, visitors can witness a marvel of this new era: “The Impossible Statue”. This AI-generated statue is a testament to AI’s ability to blend diverse artistic styles into a singular, unprecedented creation. The Swedish engineering group Sandvik embarked on an ambitious project where they fed an AI system a collection of sculptures from these legendary artists. The AI processed these inputs and synthesized them, creating 2D representations that fused the distinct elements of each artist’s style. The outcome is a remarkable sculpture that intertwines various artistic periods, offering a glimpse into a new frontier where AI and art coalesce.

Wrapping up

As we look ahead, the role of AI in museums has a long, exciting way to go. The fusion of AI with museum experiences is set to redefine what it means to interact with art and history. This collaboration promises to usher in an era of enriched visitor experiences, where dynamic curation meets immersive learning. 

By harnessing the power of AI, museums are not only preserving culture but also paving the way for innovative approaches to education and engagement. In this evolving landscape, museums are poised to become vibrant centers of discovery, continually inspiring curiosity and wonder in the hearts of their visitors.

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Header Image Courtesy of Pexels


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