Australia to test 'tour guide robot'

If you thought navigating through crowded museums was a hassle right now, just wait until you have to watch out for speeding robots that people are able to control from anywhere in the world. Okay, so that's kind of a sign of where the future may lead, but for now, the idea of bringing in a robotic creature into an Australian museum will have a tepid presence, and its accessibility will be limited to school children.

What exactly are we talking about? That would be CSIRO, a company that, at a cost of 3.5 million Australian dollars (about $3.4 million), has developed a robotic museum patron. The robot can move freely about just like a human, and is just about as tall. The idea is that people who can't physically be at the museum could control the robot remotely, and use the panoramic cameras installed to get a sense that they're actually there.

So, think of Avatar except without the whole "being lifeless in a pod" thing. The program is being tested with students in Australia so that schools from throughout the nation can experience the Australian National Museum. The robot will in fact walk alongside regular museum guests, but it has sensors to prevent it from running into anyone. "It could change the way schools interact with institutions like the museum," said CSIRO research director Jonathan Roberts. What's next? Amusement parks for people who are too afraid to go on roller coasters?