The February half-term week proved to be a wonderful opportunity to engage a range of audiences, including young children, with questions about robotic care. The ‘Can Robots Care?’ exhibition was central to the Thackray’s fun-filled week called ‘Bot Bonanza’. Visitors were encouraged through entry and exit surveys to register their attitudes towards care robots before and after experiencing the exhibition. Many visitors, especially children, found in their tactile engagement with Paro evidence that robots could indeed offer a kind of care.
Exhibition related half-term events included robot crafts, film screenings and immersive VR robot experiences. Extremely popular with the young visitors, the ground floor education space became the ‘Recycled Robot’ centre, filled with craft materials, paper, string, coloured tongue depressors, cellophane, crayons, markers, cardboard boxes to inspire young designers to build their own robots. The Thackray also ran screenings of Wall-E!, the Pixar film about a robot in a dystopian future, and young guests were invited to attend in their finest robot costumes. The Robotics lab at University of Sheffield helped run an immersive Virtual Reality experience for visitors, which proved incredibly popular. Young guests, equipped with a VR headset and handheld touch controllers, were able to experience the world in real time from inside Pepper, an actual material social robot located in the Sheffield lab. The challenge was to reach out and hold a ball offered to Pepper from technicians in the Sheffield lab. There was also a laptop station where young guests were challenged to navigate the robot MiRo through a maze in the Sheffield lab, seeing through MiRo’s ‘eyes’ and controlling his movements through buttons on the keyboard.
The attendance for the week long half-term event rivaled one of the busiest month’s at the Thackray.