I, Partner – A*STAR’s Technologies In The Public Service

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As technologies become essential in the delivery of public services, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) has been working with public agencies to create solutions that improve effectiveness and efficiency.

The Autonomous Library Shelf Scanning (Aurora) robot goes on patrols, too ­– but its mission is to spot errant library books rather than criminals.

Aurora was developed in response to the National Library Board’s desire to improve its shelf-reading process. Using radio frequency identification tags and laser mapping technology, Aurora can scan shelves with 99% accuracy, lightening the load of support librarians, volunteers and interns.

Together, the NLB and A*STAR ran a pilot programme with the robot at Pasir Ris Public Library in 2015. The NLB now deploys Aurora in six public libraries.

During this period, work processes were developed to ensure a “smooth human-robot collaboration”, says Mr Peter Mao, Chief Executive Officer of Senserbot, which worked on the pilot and has since spun off from A*STAR to launch as a commercial entity.

“For example, the robots will pass the data obtained in nightly scans to the librarians in the morning,” he explains. “Then the librarians will work on the results to accelerate the shelf-reading process.”

Previously, librarians had to manually inspect the shelves and look out for books placed in the wrong categories – not to mention those that are deliberately hidden by visitors who want sole access to certain titles.

Now, librarians can get right to shelving the books. With a lightened workload, they can also focus on more pressing customer services.

Library users can heave a sigh of relief knowing that this robot is not equipped with forensic capabilities to track the source of misplaced books.

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