Wave around the world 

A project conceived and produced by BNP Paribas

Norio

Château d’Oiron’s robot tour guide

Project initiated in 2013 at Oiron

Norio is a robot tour guide at the Château d’Oiron, a site managed by the French National Monuments Centre. The brainchild of employees of the Château and the creation of Droids Company, he helps visitors with disabilities to experience spaces and works of art that were previously inaccessible to them. 

The Château d'Oiron, Centre des Musées Nationaux

The Château d'Oiron, Centre des Musées Nationaux

Norio in the Eole et des Volants room

Norio in the Eole et des Volants room

An artist involved in the feedback on Norio, Marine Chevalier, controls the robot and talks about him with tourists

An artist involved in the feedback on Norio, Marine Chevalier, controls the robot and talks about him with tourists

One of Norio’s controllers meets a school group. Discussion ensues immediately.

One of Norio’s controllers meets a school group. Discussion ensues immediately.

« My eyes are my eyes. Norio is my legs. H. Grange, user of the robot guide »

History of the project

Norio – an anagram of Oiron – is a project conceived 4 years ago by two employees at the Château d'Oiron, in Poitou-Charentes, faced with the inaccessibility of the first floor, on a site where it was impossible to install an elevator. Their thoughts soon turned to a tele-robot but they couldn’t find an existing solution that was satisfactory. So they began looking for robotics engineers who were interested in tacking disabilities, and it was then that they discovered the Droid Company.

The meeting was an immediate success. Thus began the long process of development and testing of this mobile robot mediator. The two French robotics engineers made adjustments in Paris and regularly travelled to implement them in the corridors of the Château d’Oiron. They examined the progress made to the robot via the images he produced of the gildings and works of art; they noted what still needed to be improved. And then it was back again for more fine-tuning!

November 2013 was the robot’s official launch. Those with disabilities could at last explore the first-floor exhibition spaces. Part of the permanent exhibition, Norio has a bright future ahead of him, as he could potentially go on to conquer other spaces too. 

4
years of planning, 3 years of which were spent on design in active collaboration with robotics engineers
12
first-floor rooms that Norio helps people explore
3
wheels, allowing Norio to move around and show his controller the first floor
« It’s important for me to offer this service to members of the public who would not otherwise be able to enjoy these works of art. S. Quenault »

Interview with Samuel Quenault, curator and communications officer at the Château d’Oiron

What were the main constraints that you experienced when developing Norio?

The robot had to be able to cross the whole of first floor in a stable way, which was not easy to achieve! He could not present a risk to the public or to the collections. Using him would have to be intuitive, and he would need to be suited to different types of disability. The mouse was finally chosen as the most practical tool for controlling him. Lastly, Norio had to transmit a high definition image and his voice had to be of very high quality.

What does he provide to his users?

Over time, we’ve discovered that with Norio, user experience goes far beyond a simple guided tour. For example, he allows some people to feel less excluded, while other family members visit the floor above. For others, he provides a temporary escape from their predicament. One woman touched me in particular when she told me that through Norio she was looking out of the window and that for a brief moment she felt as though she had legs again.

What are your plans for Norio going forward?

This is just the beginning, I’m sure of that. We’re thinking of different ways of improving the user experience, of offering an augmented tour, by which I mean providing additional information that is only available via Norio. There’s another interesting track, which would be to use robots like him at other sites that are difficult to access – National Monuments as well as privately owned sites. But that doesn’t depend on us alone, of course!

Flora Clodic-Tanguy

« Norio is a true medium – one that creates links between people. »

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