Animatronic dinosaurs at one of the UK's oldest theme parks are being given a new lease of life after being fitted with a Raspberry Pi, using cognitive computing technology. Matthew Stock reports.
Until recently, the animatronic dinosaurs at this theme park were looking a bit... tame. They come with a limited set of pre-programmed, predictable motions. Owner Alexander Dabell wanted to figure out a way to give them more bite. SOUNDBITE (English) ALEXANDER DABELL, OWNER OF BLACKGANG CHINE THEME PARK, SAYING: "How do we get more out of our dinosaurs? How do we get them to be more interactive? How do we get them to be more intuitive to what it is that we want?" Dabell put a message on Twitter looking for someone to 'hack' his dinosaurs. IBM's Andy Stanford-Clark jumped at the chance. Installing Raspberry Pi mini-computers and using IBM's cognitive computing platform new, randomised routines for different scenarios are now programmable. SOUNDBITE (English) ALEXANDER DABELL, OWNER OF BLACKGANG CHINE THEME PARK, SAYING: "Technology such as the Raspberry Pi's are integral into how we can adapt the lighting, the sound, the smoke, the pyrotechnics to make everything come more to life, seem more realistic. In due course, we are looking to make that more responsive to the audience." Work's advancing to make the park interactive and more connected. SOUNDBITE (English) ANDY STANFORD-CLARK, IBM ENGINEER, SAYING: "One example for the operation of the park is; the brontosaurus has a very long neck and needs a neck brace when the wind is high to stop it falling over. So we're getting data from the weather station, sending alerts out to people's mobile phones to say 'send the crew out with the neck brace to prop the dinosaur up... The maintenance and operation of the dinosaurs, with a complicated set of motors and control logic, is exactly the same as what we see in factory automation or in a pumping station at a water company or any number of places. So what appears to be having fun with dinosaurs here has actually got some serious applications for the Internet of Things." Founded in 1843 and based on the south-side of Britain's Isle of Wight, Blackgang Chine is one of the world's oldest theme parks. By injecting new life into their robo lizards, the team here hopes they won't be the next to go extinct.