Robots Take Over London’s Tate Britain After Dark


Members of the public controlled the machines from their computers and followed their nocturnal journeys online

Vashti Hallissey
  • 18 august 2014

People got a robot’s-eye view of 500 years of British art this August, as machines took over London’s Tate Britain by night. People all over the world controlled robots as they explored the gallery after dark and also watched their adventures live online.

The robot takeover was the brainchild of The Workers, a digital product design studio who all studied at London’s Royal College of Art, with the collaboration of David Di Duca, a designer and researcher. The project, named After Dark, won the IK Prize 2014, an award for an idea that uses digital technology to bring Tate’s collection to a wider audience.

From August 13th to 17th, four camera-equipped robots had free rein of the museum by night. Every few minutes the robots selected new operators from an online queuing system to drive them around the darkened gallery. People could control their movements using on-screen buttons or arrow keys, making them turn around, move forward and look up or down.

People could also follow their journeys through an online portal and find out more about the art works on-screen from live commentary by art experts.


While it may seem risky to let robots roam one of the world’s largest art collections in the dark, there was no chance of crashing into any priceless sculptures or paintings. They were fitted out with spotlights, could sense obstacles and avoided going too close to objects. They fed this information to the online operators who could make them turn on the spot to change direction.

The robots understanding of space is hardly surprising considering that they were made in collaboration with RAL Space, which works alongside the UK Space Agency – UKSA. This is a leading centre for the research and development of space, and now art gallery, exploration technologies.


Appropriately, the first robot operator was Colonel Chris Hadfield, the retired commander of the International Space Station who is also famous for singing David Bowie’s Space Oddity. He stayed grounded for this experience, controlling the robot from his home in Toronto.


The Tate Britain is one of the world’s most important galleries, holding the national collection of British art from 1500 to the present as well as international modern art. The current collection includes some of the most well-known artwork in the world, such as A Bigger Splash by David Hockney, Ophelia by Sir John Everett Millais and Recumbent Figure by Henry Moore.

Bringing robots to this world renowned collection and letting people control them via their computers has to be the coolest way yet of bringing art to new audiences.

You can explore the Tate Britain’s collection by day at the free gallery or online.

After Dark

[h/t] BBC


How Indiegogo Is Becoming An Adult Product Destination

Home september 23, 2016

Watch This Fire Pit Dance Along To Your Favorite Song

Music City Fire is a system that is designed to flicker in time to ambient music

Automotive september 23, 2016

Slick GPS Navigator Gives Directions To Moped Riders

This small, round device attaches to a sideview mirror to display maps for safer traveling


Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Automotive

See All
Home september 23, 2016

A Clock That Beautifully Manages Your Information Overload

The wall-mounted timekeeper is made to help people maintain focus and stay up to date with their appointments

Arts & Culture september 23, 2016

Performance Piece Blends Dancers Into Folds Of Light

The work provides commentary on the increasing connection between programmed and analog dimensions

Related Expert

Adam Wells

Design Thinking For Travel (& Space)

Design & Architecture september 23, 2016

Design Firm Adapts Childhood Homes For Unemployed Young Adults

The studio has unveiled three prototypes of transformed living spaces for people forced to move back in with their families

Health september 23, 2016

These Chocolate Squares Claim To Reverse The Aging Process

A group of researchers from Cambridge University have developed a candy bar that promises to give you a youthful glow

Cities september 23, 2016

Food-Producing Architecture Competition Seeks To Better Feed Cities

A design challenge in Copenhagen highlights the need and beauty of urban farming


Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry

PSFK Op-Ed september 23, 2016

Productivity Expert: The Magic Of The Five-Hour Workday

Stephan Aarstol, Founder of Tower Paddle Boards, explains why the modern notion of office hours needs to evolve

PSFK Labs september 22, 2016

The Future Of Work: Why Innovation Is Every Employee’s Job

PSFK Labs sits down with management at Johnson & Johnson to learn how the company comes up with their next ‘big idea’

Health september 23, 2016

Wearable Monitors Sun Exposure To Prevent Sunburn

The clip monitors UV rays to make sure you're not receiving too much sunlight

Culture september 23, 2016

This Exhibition’s Crowning Jewel Is An 18k Gold-Plated Toilet

The piece, titled 'America,' is meant to raise questions about the country's wealth inequality

Culture september 23, 2016

Match Up With Dates On Tinder Based On Your Music Preferences

A new partnership with Spotify lets people pair up based on shared tastes in artists

Entertainment september 23, 2016

Capture, Cut Up, And Configure Your World In 360 Degrees

To meet a booming 360 and VR video-capturing industry, a multimedia software company bolstered its media editing suite for 360-video creation


Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders

Advertising september 23, 2016

Buy Movie Tickets Directly From Your Facebook Profile

The new feature is part of a campaign from Fandango to further imbed social media into the ticket vendor's digital presence

Asia september 23, 2016

Co-Working Space Brings The Calming Atmosphere Of Nature Indoors

An architectural firm in China has designed a new type of shared office that prioritizes the natural environment

Retail september 23, 2016

Live Beacon Simplifies Cloud Sharing For Businesses

The battery-powered device and smartphone app allow anyone to send location-specific content without the hassle of code or hardware

No search results found.