Tech projects on show at new National Gallery space

App and robot tour guide among prototypes also used by museum under innovation tie-up

A robot tour guide and a chatbot that helps users with directions have joined the list of exhibits at the National Gallery Singapore.

These are among several tech projects now on display at Y-Lab Showcase, an area in the museum which was officially opened to the public yesterday.

The area features tech prototypes designed by individuals and organisations that the museum has recently partnered with. The projects showcased will be changed every six months.

The Y-Lab Showcase currently houses 11 projects, of which about half are being deployed by the museum. They include Temi, a robot that can take visitors on a tour of the exhibits, and the museum's app, Gallery Explorer.

Temi has been deployed in the building's DBS Singapore Gallery since September last year, and there are plans to expand its use to other galleries in the museum.

Gallery Explorer provides visitors with information on the artwork and features in the museum, and offers self-guided audio tours, among other things.

The other projects being used by the gallery are the app's features, such as a chatbot that can answer common questions by visitors.

The remaining prototypes in the Y-Lab Showcase have either been trialled but have yet to be deployed by the gallery - such as another chatbot which helps visitors find their way around the building by giving them directions - or are still being developed.

The display area's opening is a milestone for Y-Lab, an initiative by the gallery. The innovation lab aims to help organisations and entrepreneurs launch or test their art and tech projects.

These projects include those intended to help artists with their work or enhance the experience of museum visitors.

In her speech yesterday, National Gallery Singapore chief executive Chong Siak Ching noted that many museums around the world have their own innovation labs. "As one of the newest museums in this region, we see the need and the opportunity to create next-gen innovations for the arts and cultural sector," she said.

"And therefore, we decided to take the step to find ways to incorporate as much innovation and technology in what we do - experiment as much as we can."

But Ms Chong noted that the museum would not be able to do so on its own, emphasising the importance of its partnerships with other organisations. "So we are taking very small baby steps."

She added that Y-Lab Showcase is the "first step in our... very, very long and continuous journey of innovation and creation".

Yesterday, the gallery also launched its art and tech start-up programme, which seeks to help individuals and organisations develop their projects.

Proposals will be judged by a panel comprising the gallery's partners, with up to 10 teams ultimately chosen.

Among other things, the selected teams will each receive a $5,000 grant for product prototyping and have their projects displayed at Y-Lab Showcase.

"Solutions that show traction and promise may receive follow-on funding to scale across the arts and culture sector, and even beyond," said the gallery in a statement.

Interested applicants can submit their proposals by Dec 8, and those selected will be announced in February next year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 26, 2021, with the headline 'Tech projects on show at new National Gallery space'. Subscribe