Monday, October 29, 2018

A new receptionist experience for PROTO

Northumbria University is collaborating with the PROTO Emerging Technologies Centre in Gateshead to develop a new remotely controlled reception system. VERS, a Virtual Embodied Reception System, was developed by Northumbria Ph.D. student Sam Nemeth under supervision of Professor Lars Erik Holmquist.

VERS is a system that lets a human receptionist greet visitors at multiple entrances. It consists of two parts:
  • A screen through which the receptionist can see the remote entrance, and communicate with visitors using voice
  • A screen at the entrance through which a visitor can see and communicate with the receptionist 
The screen that greets the visitor can be controlled by the receptionist to pan left and right, using a special-built interface. For instance, the remote receptionist can turn the screen to face the visitor, direct his or her vision to different areas such as the sign-in sheet, or physically indicate a direction. It also lets the users at either end maintain eye contact, which is very important to make the communication feel natural.

The VERS includes several unique purpose-built interfaces, including an ergonomically designed wooden ball to control the motion of the remote screen, and an old-fashioned "hotel bell" to attract attention for visitors.

VERS will be installed in PROTO and greet visitors for the first time at the official PROTO opening night on November 1!

Below is a short video showing some of the ways that a visitor and a receptionist can interact through VERS.