24 Hour Virtual Reality Hackathon

Students and staff alike enjoyed a 24 hour Virtual Reality Hack which took place at 12pm on Saturday 11th February.

The aim of the event was for students to create and develop software systems as well as being given the chance to test and try out state-of-the-art VR equipment.

The Hackathon started with the theme announcement, “Revolution with modifiers including: no hands, second person perspective , 360 and non-human.”

Attendees from MASS and Siemens came to present a ‘Choice’ award to students along with prizes, which included Amazon vouchers, a Virtual Reality headset and a drone.

The award winners:

Most Technical Award” – Andrew Cardwell and Marlon Gillium

“Most Polished Award” - Saif Al-Atrash

Best Use of Theme Award” – Team ‘Wii tried’

Most Complete Game” – Team ‘Glorious Russian Hackers’

“The Siemens Choice Award” – Liam Mason

The MASS Choice Award” – Saif Al-Atrash

“The Mass Choice Award” – Andrew Cardwell and Marlon Gillium

Thank you to all students, staff and our guests from MASS and Siemens for making it such an enjoyable event.

Sun and memories help ants navigate backwards

Desert ants rank among the best insect navigators in the world, and now a scientific study shows their navigational skills are even more sophisticated than previously thought.

Scientists have revealed how the insects – which walk backwards when carrying heavy loads of food – use the sun’s position and visual memories of their surroundings to guide them home.

Ants were known to use both processes but, until now, these were assumed to be two separate reflexes that required ants to be facing in their direction of travel. Instead, researchers have shown that ants walking backwards will occasionally look behind them to check their surroundings, and use this information to set a course relative to the sun’s position. In this way, the insects can maintain their course towards the nest regardless of which way they are facing, the team found.

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The findings suggest ants can understand spatial relations in the external world, not just relative to themselves.

The surprisingly flexible and robust navigational behaviour displayed by ants could inspire the development of novel computer algorithms – step-by-step sets of operations – to guide robots.

An international team of scientists, including researchers at the University of Lincoln and the University of Edinburgh, studied a colony of desert ants in Seville to see how the insects navigate when transporting different-sized pieces of food. Although they usually walk forward when carrying small pieces of food, ants often walk backwards to drag larger items to their nest.

The team sunk barriers into the ground to create a one-way route to the nest. They then gave ants either a small or large piece of cookie, and observed how they made their way home.

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Dr Michael Mangan, based in the School of Computer Science at the University of Lincoln, specialises in modelling the navigational behaviour of insects and explores how this can translate into cutting-edge robotics. Dr Mangan said: “These amazing animals navigate through complex habitats despite their tiny brains and poor quality eyes.  Here we show how a simple “peeking” behaviour allows homing ants to combine directional information from multiple. Revealing their navigational strategies could lead to development of new sensors and control systems for robots.”

Previous research has shown that ants walking forwards find their way by comparing what they see in front of them with visual memories of the route. The team found that ants traveling backwards instead use the sun’s position in the sky to guide them.

To ensure they stay on course, backward-walking ants also routinely drop what they are carrying and turn around. They do this to compare what they see with their visual memories of the route, and correct their direction of travel if they have wandered off course.

Future studies could help to determine the interplay between different regions in the ant brain that enables the insects to use and combine different forms of navigation, the team says.

The study, published in the journal Current Biology, was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The research was carried out in collaboration with other scientists at the Australian National University and the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS).

The study has been covered by media outlets around the world, including BBC News Online.

Virtual blacksmith simulator features on BBC Look North

A pioneering project by computer scientists at the University of Lincoln to create a virtual blacksmith simulator was featured this weekend on BBC Look North.

Led by Dr John Murray from the School of Computer Science, the project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and is designed to revive the process of crafting techniques and craftsmanship for a new generation.

Together with his students, Dr Murray has created a virtual reality blacksmith’s forge so that people can experience the environment of a forge and try out the techniques for themselves using bespoke software that integrates human motion capture tracking sensors. Users can also produce their own artefact, created in the virtual reality forge, by 3D printing it as a keepsake.

Providing a 21st century take on blacksmithing, the Heritage Craft Simulation project has been developed in partnership with Chain Bridge Forge in Spalding.

BBC Look North featured the project on Sunday 18th December 2016, and the programme is now available to view on BBC iPlayer (from 03:00): http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b084jmcl/look-north-east-yorkshire-and-lincolnshire-weekend-news-18122016

Visit the University website for more details about the project: http://www.lincoln.ac.uk/news/2014/05/887.asp

Enter The Telegraph’s STEM Awards

The Telegraphs UK STEM Awards have launched for their 4th year and you could be  a part of it.

STEMAwards

The STEM Awards were set up in 2014 to highlight and reward the best undergraduate talent in our universities.

The winners of the awards can win anything from work experience to £25,000. They do this by answering one of six industry specific challenges. Each of these is set by a specific sponsor -

·  Rolls-Royce

·  Atkins

·  Semta

·  GSK

·  McLaren

·  BAE Systems

As an example, one of the six challenges is – 

Imagine it’s 2050, fossil fuels are becoming more scarce and stealth and autonomous capabilities are vital in combating a number of different threats from pirates, terrorists and rogue states. Considering all of these requirements what would an Aircraft Carrier of the future look like?

Click here to see the other challenges

GET INVOLVED:

Entry deadline is the 20th of Feb 2017, but if you have any questions in the mean time, email stem@telegraph.co.uk .

 

For more information go to 

·  www.telegraph.co.uk/stemawards

·  @STEMawards

·  www.facebook.com/stemawards/

 

Lincoln computer science research papers accepted

Lincoln Centre for Autonomous Systems (L-CAS) submitted research papers to SAC 2017 and HRI 2017, and have been accepted.

The first paper to be presented at SAC 2017 is joint work with Dr Marc Hanheide‘s PhD student Peter Lightbody and Dr Tomas Krajnik on “A Versatile High-Performance Visual Fiducial Marker Detection System with Scalable Identity Encoding”.

Fiducial markers have a wide field of applications in robotics, ranging from external localisation of single robots or robotic swarms, over self-localisation in marker-augmented environments, to simplifying perception by tagging objects in a robot’s surrounding.

We propose a new family of circular markers allowing for a computationally efficient detection, identification and full 3D position estimation. A key concept of our system is the separation of the detection and identification steps, where the first step is based on a computationally efficient circular marker detection, and the identification step is based on an open-ended `necklace code’, which allows for a theoretically infinite number of individually identifiable markers.

The experimental evaluation of the system on a real robot indicates that while the proposed algorithm achieves similar accuracy to other state-of-the-art methods, it is faster by two orders of magnitude and it can detect markers from longer distances.

The second paper that has been accepted at HRI 2017, which has an acceptance rate of only 24%, is co-authored by Marc Hanheide, Denise Hebesberger, and Tomas Krajnik:
“The When, Where, and How: An Adaptive Robotic Info-Terminal for Care Home Residents – a long-term study”

Adapting to users’ intentions is a key requirement for autonomous robots in general, and in-care settings in particular. In this paper, a comprehensive long-term study of a mobile robot providing information services to residents, visitors, and staff of a care home is presented with a focus on adapting to the when and where the robot should be offering its services to best accommodate the users’ needs.

Rather than providing a fixed schedule, the presented system takes the opportunity of long-term deployment to explore the space of possibilities of interaction while concurrently exploiting the model learned to provide better services. But in order to provide effective services to users in a care home, not only the when and where are relevant, but also the way the information is provided and accessed. Hence, also the usability of the deployed system is studied specifically, in order to provide a most comprehensive overall assessment of a robotic info-terminal implementation in a care setting.

Our results back our hypotheses, (i) that learning a spatiotemporal model of users’ intentions improves efficiency and usefulness of the system, and (ii) that the specific information sought after is indeed dependent on the location the info-terminal is offered.

This is a great achievement for our PhD students and researchers, and you can keep up to date with our L-CAS research here: https://lcas.lincoln.ac.uk/wp/ 

 

Computer Science in Lincoln