A forest ranger robot dog has been unveiled as part of a project using cutting edge technology to boost tourism and help protect the environment in Nottinghamshire’s legendary woodland. With functionality designed by experts from Birmingham City University, the prototype, remote-controlled, dog-shaped robot is taking the lead by trialling how data gathered from areas which are usually inaccessible, and monitoring and assessing the health and condition within a forest environment.
Revealed as part of a showcase around the world’s first 5G Connected Forest project - spearheaded by Nottinghamshire County Council in partnership with academic researchers and local businesses - the technology is helping to drive a £10 million 25-month programme across the woodland home of English legend Robin Hood. With funding worth around £5 million from the DCMS’s Rural Connected Communities programme, matched by the consortium partners, the project focuses on how 5G technology can boost the tourism and environment protection sectors.
Nottinghamshire school children aged 5-11 will have the chance to officially name the robot dog as part of a new competition due to be launched by Nottinghamshire County Council after the half-term break next month. As part of the 5G Connected Forest programme, the ancient woodland – which enjoys a legendary status worldwide thanks to the story of the English folklore hero from the area – will be home to the development and application of smart robotic forest rangers, autonomous vehicles and a super-sensitive sensor network for environmental monitoring and management.
Birmingham City University Associate Professor Taufiq Asyhari said: “We are thrilled to be able to showcase some of the high-end AI, computing, and other cutting-edge network and interactive technologies, which are helping to drive the 5G Connected Forest project.
“Our robot dog will support the duties of forest rangers to collect various data within forestry surrounding environments. This will be complemented by our drone and advanced sensing technologies to capture the aerial view of the forest.
“The 5G-enabled forestry data processing could pave a way in understanding the health of the forest close to real time to ensure safe, sustainable interactions between human and forest. Our research and development work around data collection and intelligent processing, understanding and improving connectivity, and helping to upscale the forestry environmental management is moving from strength to strength – we’re delighted to be part of a great team on this project.”
Another component of the project, a Robin Hood augmented reality experience ‘An Arrow Through Time’ is on target to be fully trialled later this year using mixed reality headsets. The production has been put together by project partner Gooii Ltd and features an exciting cast of actors, including Black Mirror’s Dominic Le Moignan, using a script co-written by Bafta award-winning CBBC writer and producer Nick Hutchings.
Speaking from Rufford Mill where the showcase took place, Councillor Keith Girling, chairman of the county council’s Economic Development and Asset Management Committee, said:
“5G Connected Forest really is an exciting project and I am proud that Nottinghamshire is leading the way with these trials.
“An Arrow Through Time, brings local legends to life in a way never seen before. It showcases our ongoing commitment to make Nottinghamshire an even more attractive place to visit thanks to the development of world-class visitor experiences such as this.”
Professor Julian Beer, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Birmingham City University, said, “We’re delighted to have achieved a number of milestones within the 5G Connected Forest project, which applies pioneering research in technology to one of the UK’s oldest and most historic of woodlands.
“5G connectivity is at the heart of our work in creating and improving benefits for the business and residential communities of the Sherwood Forest area; we look forward to our ‘working robot dog’ and other systems collecting and understanding real-time data to improve visitor experiences and economies at regional and national levels.”