Persephone, the robot guide, leads visitors in a Greek cave

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Persephone guides the visitors wrong Alistrati cave, astir 135 kilometers (84 miles) northeast of Thessaloniki, Greece, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. Persephone, billed arsenic the world's archetypal robot utilized arsenic a circuit usher wrong a cave, has been welcoming visitors to the Alistrati cave, since mid-July. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)

ALISTRATI – Persephone is simply a circuit usher successful Greece, but possibly not the benignant radical are utilized to.

Billed arsenic the world’s archetypal robot circuit usher wrong a cave, Persephone has been welcoming visitors since mid-July to the Alistrati Cave successful bluish Greece, 135 kilometers (84 miles) northeast of the metropolis of Thessaloniki.

The multilingual robot covers the archetypal 150 meters (roughly 500 feet) of the portion of the cave that is unfastened to the public. In the remaining 750 meters (2,400 feet), a quality usher takes over.

The robot was named Persephone because, according to 1 mentation of the past Greek myth, it was successful a adjacent plain that Pluto — the deity of the underworld who was besides known arsenic Hades — abducted Persephone, with the consent of her begetter Zeus, to instrumentality her arsenic his wife.

The robot tin springiness its portion of the circuit successful 33 languages and interact astatine a basal level with visitors successful 3 languages. It tin besides reply 33 questions, but lone successful Greek.


Nikos Kartalis, the technological manager for the Alistrati site, had the thought of creating the robot erstwhile helium saw 1 connected TV guiding visitors astatine an creation gallery. Seventeen years later, "we got our funds and the robot usher became a reality,” Kartalis told The Associated Press.

The robot was built by the National Technology and Research Foundation and outgo 118,000 euros ($139,000).

“We already person a 70% summation successful visitors compared to past twelvemonth since we started using” the robot, says Kartalis. “People are enthusiastic, particularly the children, and radical who had visited successful the past are coming backmost to spot the robot guide."

“It is thing unprecedented for them, to person the quality to interact with their robot by asking it questions and the robot answering them,” helium said. “Many overseas visitors couldn’t judge Greece had the capableness to physique a robot and usage it arsenic a usher successful the cave.”

The robot moves on a walkway, passing done an ornate scenery of stalactites and stalagmites. These varied formations tin scope 15 meters (50 feet) gangly and are seen passim the cave's astir 1 kilometer (1.6-mile) walkway, which is accessible to radical with constricted mobility.


“This cave is 1 of the astir beautiful, not lone successful Greece but successful Europe, arsenic well," says Kartalis. “It has stalactites and stalagmites successful galore shapes and colors, adjacent red."

He said the cave was 3 cardinal years aged and was archetypal explored successful 1974 by the Hellenic Speleological Society and a squad of Austrian speleologists. It opened to visitors successful 1998.

Persephone, with a achromatic body, achromatic caput and 2 luminous eyes, moves connected wheels, guiding visitors to the archetypal 3 of 8 stops on the walkway. She tin bash 2 much stops, but her debased velocity slows down the tour, which is conducted successful 3 languages simultaneously. Persephone’s creators are considering ways to velocity her up.

The robot’s begins by saying: “My sanction is Persephone, I americium the girl of the goddess Demeter and the woman of Pluto, the deity of the underworld. I invited you to my nether Earth kingdom, the Alistrati Cave.”

Many visitors are intrigued by the robot guide.


“It was astonishing for me. I’ve ne'er experienced specified a thing. Actually, honestly, I similar a unrecorded guide, but it’s absorbing doing it this way. And I similar the gait of the robot. It goes slower, truthful I tin look around,” said Patrick Markes, a Czech visitor.

Markes listened to the archetypal 3 stops from the robοt successful his autochthonal connection and the remainder successful English from a quality circuit guide.

“I should convey Persephone, our robot, she said precise good things,” said Christos Tenis, a Greek visitor. “I’m impressed by the cave. Of course, we had a flawless (human) guide, she explained galore things. I’m precise impressed."

Persephone is not the lone exertion utilized wrong the cave. There's a cellphone app successful which a visitor, scanning a QR code, tin spot the Alistrati Beroni. That’s a microorganism that is lone recovered successful this cave, successful the immense mounds of bat droppings near down erstwhile the cave was opened and the bats migrated elsewhere.


Evdokia Karafera is 1 of the circuit guides who partners with the robot.

“It is helpful, due to the fact that it speaks galore languages. There’s conscionable a small hold successful the touring,” she said. "Most find it fascinating, particularly the children, and find it absorbing that it speaks galore languages.”

Karafera insisted, however, that quality circuit guides cannot beryllium wholly replaced.

“Robots, astatine immoderate constituent successful the future, volition instrumentality implicit galore jobs. But I judge they cannot regenerate humans everywhere," she said. “(Visitors say) ‘the robot is interesting, original, but can’t substitute for the quality interaction with the usher and the speech we tin person connected the mode back.’”


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