Meet Hugh, the robot librarian

26 February 2016

Pasi William Sachiti (left) and Ariel Ladegaard (right) with a prototype of Hugh, the robot librarian.
Pasi William Sachiti (left) and Ariel Ladegaard (right) with a prototype of Hugh, the robot librarian.

Students searching for library books at Aberystwyth University could soon be turning to a robot for assistance.

Hugh, the artificially intelligent robot librarian, is the brain-child of robotics students Pasi William Sachiti and Ariel Ladegaard.

Designed to take verbal book requests, Hugh will be able to tell where a book is kept and show the student to the relevant book shelf.

Combining existing robot technology with information from PRIMO, the University’s online library search facility, Hugh will be a walking, talking library catalogue with access to 800,000 books.

Pasi and Ariel will present their prototype at a BCS Show & Tell event at Aberystwyth University on Friday 26 February and have invited fellow robotics and artificial intelligence students to contribute to the project’s development over the coming months.

“The next phase is to look at how it moves around without bumping into people and library furniture, how it finds out where the books are, how it interprets voice commands, how it displays the information, and what it looks like”, said Ariel. “And of course, in a quiet environment such as a library, should it have its own voice?”

According to Pasi, a veteran of the BBC’s Dragon’s Den series, key to Hugh’s success will be keeping things simple.

“As many who use mobile phone apps know, the simpler the app is, the more people are likely to use it. We are adopting the same philosophy with Hugh; his job will be to listen to your question, find the book and take you there”, he said.

Pasi sees Hugh as being the first in a line of “narrowly artificially intelligent robots” who will be able to undertake specific tasks in environments such as hospitals, care homes or supermarkets.

Elizabeth Kensler, Customer Services and Academic Engagement Manager for Information Services at Aberystwyth said: “Libraries are always looking to apply technology to improve the services they provide and there are successful examples of technological solutions complementing staffed services in all libraries. However, a robot librarian that finds a book and takes you to the relevant shelf could well be a world first.”

“The response of staff to the work done by Pasi and Ariel has been fantastic and we look forward to working with them as they test the prototype over the coming months. It will be fascinating to see how students interact with it, particularly speaking to the robot in what is essentially a quiet area for study.”

Pasi and Ariel aim to have a working robot in place to greet the new cohort of students in September 2016.

The BCS & Arts Tech Show & Tell event takes place at the Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies on Friday 26 February from 18:00 to 20:00.

To find out more about Hugh go to http://www.hugh.ai/

Pasi William Sachiti
Originally from Zimbabwe, Pasi describes himself as a “serial entrepreneur”. A first year Robotics and Artificial Intelligence student, Pasi has appeared on the BBC’s Dragon’s Den where he promoted the concept of clever bins. His most recent venture was acquired by Google invested Secret Escapes. Pasi chose to study at Aberystwyth University as it is one of the few universities in the UK that offers a degree in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. He was also attracted by the University’s policy on Intellectual Property (IP) which recognises the creativity of students and their ownership of the IP they create during the course of their studies and research, subject to provisions set out in the policy which is available online here.

Ariel Ladegaard
Originally from Bergen on the west coast of Norway, Ariel is studying Space Science and Robotics. Having studied space science at college, Ariel undertook his military service before going to work as a freelancer in the film and television industries. After several years of working, he decided to return to do what he always wanted to do, study space robotics. After graduating, he hopes to work in the space robotics industry.  Of Aberystwyth, Ariel said: “Aberystwyth University offers opportunities to work on projects like Hugh and other robot projects such as the Sailbot project . Even in your first year you have access to some of the robotics laboratory research facilities, and you feel appreciated by staff.”

The Department of Computer Science at Aberystwyth University
Based on the outcomes of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, the Department of Computer Sciences at Aberystwyth is ranked 11th in the UK by the Times Higher Education. To find out more about Intelligent Robotics research at the Department, click here.

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Contacts

Arthur Dafis
Communications and Public Affairs
Aberystwyth University
01970 621763 / 07841 979 452 / aid@aber.ac.uk