For five nights starting on 13 August, art enthusiasts will be able to experience what it would feel like to be alone in a gallery through virtual tours provided by robots in Tate Britain.
The project, named After Dark, is the winning proposal of the IK Prize 2014, a new annual competition run by Tate Britain encouraging artists to explore digital technology to create new ways to relate to art.
Everyone around the world would be able to see the galleries at night through the cameras on four robots streaming live video on the After Dark website.
During the day, visitors to the galleries will be able to see the robots on display in the gallery with a lucky few being able to steer them around.
The first person to enjoy a virtual night tour delivered by the robotic mediators was Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, joining in from his home in Toronto.
The robots, equipped with lights, cameras, sensors and motors, and programmed to respond in real-time to the commands, were assembled by Tommaso Lanza, Ross Cairns and David Di Duca at The Workers design studio with help from technology company RAL Space.
“After Dark combines behind-the-scenes-intrigue with a sense of exploration,” The Workers said. “The project will give people all over the world a unique experience of 500 years of British art. Our experience of making the project has been rewarding, challenging and made possible thanks to the close and enthusiastic collaborations we have had with various teams across Tate Britain."
Members of the public will be able to log onto afterdark.tate.org.uk on 13, 14, 16 and 17 August from 10pm until 3am. On 15 August, there will be an evening for children to operate the robots at an earlier time of 7.30pm until 00.30am.
“The Workers’ inspired robotic takeover of Tate Britain gets right to the heart of what the IK prize stands for, coupling outstanding digital creativity with the imaginative use of technology to bring art to ever wider audiences,” said Jane Burton, creative director at Tate Media. “Their proposal really captured the jurors’ attention with its playfulness and technical ambition, and they have delivered on every count.”
After Dark was chosen by a panel of industry experts from a shortlist of four finalists. The winners received a prize of £10,000 and a £60,000 development budget to realise a project that will connect audiences with the Tate collection.
The IK Prize, supported by the Porter Foundation, was launched in the memory of philanthropist Irene Kreitman, to celebrate creative talent in the digital age.