A new robot tour guide named Persephone is wowing visitors at the Alistrati Cave in Macedonia.
Said to be the world’s first robot tour guide inside a cave, Persephone guides visitors through the first 150 metres (roughly 500 feet) of the part of the cave that is open to the public. In the remaining 750 metres (2,400 feet), a human guide takes over.
A report in the Associated Press claims the robot was named Persephone because, “according to one version of the ancient Greek myth, it was in a nearby plain that Pluto — the god of the underworld who was also known as Hades — abducted Persephone, with the consent of her father Zeus, to take her as his wife.”
Already proving a hit with visitors, Persephone is able to give part of the tour in 33 languages, while also having the ability to interact with visitors, at a basic level, in three languages. It can also answer 33 questions, but only in Greek.
As reported in AP, the Scientific Director of the Alistrati Cave, Nikos Kartalis, first considered a robot tour guide seventeen years ago after seeing one on TV guiding visitors through an art gallery.
After finding the funds for the project, the job of building the robot was commissioned to the National Technology and Research Foundation and cost 118,000 euros (US$139,000).
“We already have a 70% increase in visitors compared to last year since we started using” the robot, says Kartalis. “People are enthusiastic, especially the children, and people who had visited in the past are coming back to see the robot guide.”
“It is something unprecedented for them, to have the ability to interact with their robot by asking it questions and the robot answering them,” he told AP. “Many foreign visitors couldn’t believe Greece had the capacity to build a robot and use it as a guide in the cave.”
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