Self-driving cars & social robots at Bytes
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Visitors to the Summer Bytes Festival were amongst the first to see and experience the new self-driving vehicles that will be coming to Milton Keynes soon.
The Milton Keynes-based Transport Systems Catapult, which is overseeing the LUTZ Pathfinder self-driving vehicle project, brought one of their two-seater pods to the Bytes festival along with a virtual reality headset to give visitors a realistic impression of what it will feel like to travel inside a pod.
Asked what he thought about the possibility of calling a pod, rather than asking his parents to transport him to a local event, ten-year-old Emerson from Milton Keynes had no doubts: “That would be awesome!”
Neil Fulton of Transport Systems Catapult explained some of the challenges in developing the system: “The pod has to recognise buildings, road markings and all sorts of road furniture, but the biggest challenge is the moving environment. When the pod sees a moving object, how does it know what it is? Is it a car, a cat, a plastic bag or something else? And what does it do next? A lot of the research is going into that identification and decision-making.”
The LUTZ Pathfinder programme is being supported by an autonomous control system supplied by Oxford University’s Mobile Robotics Group. The first public demonstration of the technology is due to take place in central Milton Keynes later this year.
Events organiser at TNMOC, Matthew Yeomans, said: “Our Festival aims to show new and old technologies side-by-side. Visitors get a great perspective on how far we have come in technological terms. There aren’t too many places where you can see the future of computerised travel alongside what was once the future of computing 70 years ago!”
Amongst many other hands-on activities at the Museum, visitors have also witnessed the meeting of robotic minds. A 2016 social robot Pepper was introduced to George, a 1951 robot constructed by the late Tony Sale from a crashed Lancaster bomber. Pepper was very animated and chatty and clearly looked up to George. But George looked fairly nonplussed.
Summer Bytes continues until the end of August and will finish with a grand retro gaming extravaganza. Full details.