Each side of Erica has small screens we will use to show information - this is the first time we have seen the Raspberry Pi screen on the Rhino.

Each side of Erica has small screens we will use to show information – this is the first time we have seen the Raspberry Pi screen on the Rhino.

we needed a good access hatch into the rhino to mount all the electronics - here Jon inspects the inside of the rhino - which had to be cleaned up quite a lot!

we needed a good access hatch into the rhino to mount all the electronics – here Jon inspects the inside of the rhino – which had to be cleaned up quite a lot!

This shows the small computers mounted for easy access - with their network cables running to a switch on the reverse. They each have specific tasks - like networking or controlling motors

This shows the small computers mounted for easy access – with their network cables running to a switch on the reverse. They each have specific tasks – like networking or controlling motors

Cutting the ears so they can be remounted on motors

Cutting the ears so they can be remounted on motors

the ears need a strong mounting points so they stick to the rhino's motors with supermagnets - the cavity was filled with expanding foam

the ears need a strong mounting points so they stick to the rhino’s motors with supermagnets – the cavity was filled with expanding foam

Now that she’s all painted and ready to go, it seems fitting to tell you how Erica will be all linked up and networked. This week, we’ve spoken to David who is part of the team working on Erica’s brain – but his role has more of a focus on her connectivity and how she’ll interface with you when she’s in the city centre.

In the video, Dave gives us a sneak peek into the work-in-progress diagram that shows how Erica’s different tech parts interlink with her brain. You may recall us talking to Mike a few weeks ago who gave us an exclusive look into how Erica’s behaviours work and he showed us a sample website interface for sending actions to her brain. In some ways, today is part 2 and the team have figured out how you’ll be able to connect with her through your smart phones or tablets when you come and visit her! This means that a range of features will be fully interactive, allowing you to (in a really simple way!), send commands to Erica’s brain and make her perform a range of actions – more on this in the coming weeks, folks!

Check out our short interview with David below.

Next week is where it gets really exciting. We’ll be bringing you some real footage of Erica being modified for the first time – it’s time to start installing some tech! Wish the team luck as they eat endless amounts of pizza, cut fiberglass and wire her up.

The transformation continues…

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Erica building and programming session one friday evening

Erica building and programming session one friday evening. Front to back: Mike, Tyler, Dave, Phil and Graeme.

Here you see the first test of the “brain” RPi – getting a message from the “mech” RPi and acting on it by sending a sound play message to the RPi with the speaker – the result? Erica snorts! In the background you can see Graeme doing webcam-inserting mechanics. We also made progress getting Erica’s “Intranet” working – as there are many computers inside all with internet connections – its like a house – with one RPi connected to the outside world via WiFi.

Check out the short clip below.

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Near enough a week of dedicated painting and Erica’s artwork is finally complete. Her paint transformation has been truly remarkable and we are astounded by the talent of Christopher Clancy who’s done an incredible job of painting her. Be sure to check out his blog.

Here’s a snap of her finished look.

Erica - Painting Progress

Impressive eh? Head over to our Instagram profile to see the full set of photos that show the various stages that she underwent, from pencil-work and casting to different paint layers. We’ve even compiled an 80 second time-lapse video showing her full paint job sped-up. Check it out.

Now that she’s all painted, some of the tech progress can start to be installed. Next Wednesday, we’ll be resuming our weekly tech updates. Stay tuned – its exciting stuff!

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This week we have been speaking to Jonathon, who is working alongside Tyler on the technology behind Erica’s eyes and they have made some remarkable progress in the last few weeks. Meanwhile Christopher has been working hard and has made some outstanding progress with Erica’s paint job in the last week. Check it out and let us know what you think.

Erica - Painting Progress

A few weeks ago we caught up with Tyler, who showed us the camera system behind Erica’s eye movement; but the Eye team has come a long way since then! Jonathon, a senior research fellow at the University, has been sharing with us how the software and the camera will work together to make Erica interact with people in the surrounding area. With the use of two servos – one moving up and down and the other moving left and right – Erica can look at everything going on around her. She will even be able to focus on an individual and follow their movements.

With summer just around the corner, the ECS guys are working hard to make Erica as interactive as possible with loads of exciting features. Stay tuned to find out more!

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This week, we’re bringing you a further update on the progress of Erica’s brain. Before that however, you may be excited to see some of Erica’s artwork progress – Chris is painting her this week and we have got a few time-lapsed snaps. Here’s one – tell us what you think!

Erica - Painting Progress

Back to the update… last week, we chatted with Mike who gave us an introduction to the behaviour part of Erica’s brain and he demonstrated how easy it is to create and modify behaviours – she’s eager to learn! Since then, we have spoken with Ash who is also part of the brain team but whose involvement reflects his passion and day-job; gathering and structuring open data.

Ash works for the university’s tech solutions and he has a particular responsibility for essentially making sure that non-confidential data is made publicly available. The University’s Open Data Service structures this non-confidential data in an easily accessible format so that anyone can use it or build tools on top of it without needless bureaucracy that is typically found in a large institution!

As you might imagine, as soon as Ash got on board with Erica the Rhino, he saw an opportunity for scraping relevant open data from all over the World Wide Web to educate Erica about all things Rhino! The process is in quite an early stage at the moment but it poses an exciting challenge – to see how much information we can collate and structure in such a way that Erica can learn about her environment – the weather, the news, rhino facts, all-sorts.

Check out the video below and hear it straight from Ash.

Next week, we’ll be speaking to John who has been working on the mechatronics of Erica’s eyes along with Tyler – he’s made some fantastic progress and we have got a virtually finished prototype – tune in next Wednesday!

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Welcome again to Erica the Rhino’s weekly blog post. We hope you found the ‘Mechatronics’ update insightful and it may well have even inspired you to recreate something similar at home.

This week we will be focusing on Erica’s brain and how the team are really allowing her personality to shine through! We spoke to Mike Jewell – a Research Fellow within the University’s ECS department- who is working on the Pitino project; developing mobile note-taking technology for Archaeologists.

Mike’s experience as a games developer is certainly exuded within Erica’s brain, and he really hopes to ensure that interactivity is a key aspect of this project. Erica’s brain is very clever indeed; she essentially has both short and long term memory. The short term memory enables her to react instantly to an action, whilst the long term memory recalls accumulated actions so that her mood and behaviour can change accordingly. For example, she may behave differently towards her first guest in the morning compared with another passer-by later in the day. This means that you are able to personally interact with her, making her happy by: tickling, feeding, petting… – the list goes on!

The team really wants to get people involved with the behavioural scripting of Erica. The scripts are very simple and people with virtually zero exposure to programming are able to contribute their ideas; helping to make Erica even more interactive! To hear more, check out the interview with Mike below!

Check back here next week to meet another member of the team, who will be sharing with us more development behind Erica’s eyes, including a working prototype – showing how Erica can follow your every movement; it really isn’t one to be missed!

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