Starting Tonight, You Can Roam the Tate Museum After Hours, Via Robot

Spend a virtual night at the museum with robots

Tate Gallery
A gallery in the Tate Britain Steve Vidler/Corbis

Starting tonight, people from around the world will be able to sneak around London’s Tate Britain after hours, viewing priceless paintings by flashlight. The  intruders will all be sitting comfortably in their homes, though, while robots armed with lights and cameras do all the hard work. 

The project is called After Dark and will allow people from all over the world the chance to see the Tate Britain’s collection, as though they were living a very modern version of the From the Mixed-Up Files of  Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler. Visitors to the website will have the option of watching feeds from the four robots, or signing up to take control of the robot and guide it to a new part of the museum. The robot pilots will be chosen at random, and art experts will participate in the feed, commenting on the artworks selected by the audience.  

FastCo.Design describes the inspiration behind the project:

The idea came to Dave di Duca, one of the three members of The Workers team, after he’d been working on a separate project at the Tate. He found being alone in the galleries after hours a powerful, magical experience, and wanted to extend this unusual feeling of creeping around a museum at night to the masses.

The project was funded through the inaugural awarding of the Tate’s IK prize which “recognises creative talent in the digital industry.” For one of the first test drives of the robots, Chris Hadfield was invited to pilot a robot through the exhibit. 

In a video on the Tate website, he comments on the experience:

“You start to forget what you’re really doing and just become curious about the painting itself. And the robot, and your hands, just become an extension of your mind. That’s how technology ought to be.”