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Meet HARK – the Humanish Art Robot, ‘Kay?

July 8th, 2019

Image by the AGO.

Have you ever walked through a museum and wished someone could explain the story behind the artwork? Good news: our new chatbot HARK (the Humanish Art Robot, ‘Kay?) is now available to welcome you on a self-guided art adventure through our summer exhibition, Brian Jungen Friendship Centre.

We wanted to learn more about this innovative new tool, so we sat down with Shiralee Hudson Hill, the AGO’s lead interpretive planner, to talk about the collaborative work that brought HARK to life.

AGO: What is HARK?
Hudson Hill:
HARK is the AGO’s new chatbot for Brian Jungen Friendship Centre. A chatbot is a computer program designed to simulate conversations. It’s a bit like texting a friend.

AGO: What inspired you to create HARK?
Hudson Hill:
There is so much to encounter in Brian Jungen Friendship Centre, so we came up with a new and innovative way to connect visitors with the different issues and ideas explored in Jungen’s work. Our team has heard from visitors that they want more self-directed learning opportunities. So HARK was created as a new “choose your own art adventure” to welcome and guide people‘s experiences with art.

AGO: How do you make a robot “humanish”?
Hudson Hill: We know that art can sometimes feel intimidating for some people – especially if you are visiting an art museum for the first time. So we wanted HARK to be friendly and conversational, almost like you’re talking to a friend.

AGO: How do you use HARK?
Hudson Hill: HARK is super-easy to use. When you’re in the exhibition, look for the speech bubble icon on wall texts near four of the artworks. Then, using your smartphone, connect to the free AGO Wi-Fi and go to AGO.ca/hark. From there it should launch automatically, or you can click on the speech bubble in the bottom corner on the screen and HARK will be there to greet you.

AGO: What went into making HARK?
Hudson Hill: Recent technology has made creating a chatbot easier than ever. Our interpretive planning team worked closely with the AGO’s digital team to customize existing tools to our needs and then we input the conversations. It’s a really great example of people coming together and collaborating with cutting-edge technology to create something new and innovative.

AGO: What’s next for HARK?
Hudson Hill: We’re looking at our options to expand the use of chatbots across the AGO. Museums all over the world are just starting to experiment with this technology, so we want to continue learning, improving and expanding HARK. We’re also looking at adding more images, videos and even GIFs into HARK’s responses. The technology is advancing rapidly, so the world is our chatbot oyster!

Visit Brian Jungen Friendship Centre and discover what HARK has to say about four of the works on view.

Admission to the AGO Collection and all special exhibitions is always free for AGO MembersAGO Annual Pass holders and visitors 25 and under. For more information, please visit the website.

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