A typical delivery of parts for Erica’s construction: Raspberry Pi, 5V power supply (big one to power all the RPi etc), usb hub (for plugging lots of USB devices like cameras into the RPi), saw blades (for the hatch – ouch!), glue mixers, tiny ethernet cables (to link up all the RPi)

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Inside Erica will be a few Raspberry Pi computers which control things like cameras, ear motors, sounds, networking, lights etc. These were chosen because they have been specifically created for educational projects – and yet run all the software we need. It means the designs can be copied by people who want to try some electronics or computing – and they are very reasonably priced! We will be making hands-on teaching materials to go with each of the elements of Erica’s design. Each RPi will behave like a tiny web server and that is how they will interact – so the rhino really is like a small group of interacting web objects.

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Welcome again to Erica the Rhino’s website where you can keep up to date with her transformation from a fibreglass sculpture to a digitally interactive Rhino! You’ll be pleased to know that she has arrived safely in Southampton – photos have been uploaded to our Facebook page and Instagram profile; be sure to take a look and share with your friends.

During her stay here at the University’s ECS department, we will keep you guys up to speed with her progress through regular blog posts; you’ll even get a chance to make your own interactive rhino features at home; keep an eye on the How To page

The first step of Erica’s make over is her skin– the competition for the artwork design has now finished and Christopher Clancy’s design was chosen by popular vote! We will be photographing Chris’s progress in painting Erica and unveiling her transformation very shortly! Christopher studies at Winchester School of Art and his inspiration for this design was based on his creative interpretation of a ‘tech-y’ theme. Let us know what you think of this fantastic design below or via our Twitter page.

We’ve been speaking to the tech team to find out exactly why they wanted to work with our wonderful Rhino and also what modifications they’re planning on making during the next couple of months. Tyler Ward is first up! He is a PhD student at the University and is part of the mechatronics team.

He’s been working on Erica’s eyes, focussing on how to get her to physically look at people in the surrounding area. Erica can even blink with the use of LED’s; the brightness can be adjusted to replicate eye movement. To meet Tyler and to find out more watch the video below!

Check back here next week to meet another member of the team, who will be sharing with us the concept behind Erica’s own brain – she really does have a mind of her own!

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Designed by our very own student at the University of Sourthampton - Winchester School of Art.

Welcome! You’re probably wondering who on earth Erica is and how she’s managed to escape the wild?! Well, in truth, she’s not a real rhino. She is one of many, life-sized, fibreglass models created by Marwell Zoo in celebration of their 40th anniversary, but Erica is unique…

Marwell Wildlife is bringing Go! Rhinos; a mass, world-class public art exhibition, to the streets and parks of Southampton for 10 weeks this summer. From the 13th July till the 22nd September, rhino sculptures will trail all over the city, demonstrating the artistic talent that Southampton has to offer. Over the last few months, a variety of local organisations have agreed to sponsor a Rhino and are in the process of painting them with their very own look and feel. The ECS department (Electronics and Computer Science), here at the University of Southampton are taking it one step further (check out the sponsorship announcement)!

With permission from Marwell Zoo, the ECS tech team has been given a unique opportunity to fully customise Erica, equipping her with digital features. Over the course of the next 3 months, the tech teams will be working hard to digitize her from top to bottom with a whole range of cool, interactive features.

She will be in the city centre over the summer months where you can meet her in person and witness some state-of-the-art tech that we’re developing here at the university. Although you can’t see her just yet, you can follow her journey here, weekly on the blog and you can follow her on Twitter to keep up with all her progress.

Head over to the About page for more information on Erica’s interactive features and watch this space!

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