Silverstone walkies for Spot, the University of Buckingham's robotic dog

Spot turned heads among racegoers at high-tech venue

Wednesday, 21st July 2021, 4:32 pm
Updated Thursday, 22nd July 2021, 9:26 am

Fans of all things high-tech had the chance to interact with a real robot, when Spot, the University of Buckingham s robotic dog, went 'walkies' at the Silverstone Grand Prix.

Dr Harin Sellahewa, dean of the Faculty of Computing, Psychology and Law, took the School of Computing's new canine classmate Spot to Silverstone, which is home to the Silverstone Cluster of cutting-edge technology companies.

Dr Sellahewa said: "It was fantastic to see people's response to Spot. Crowds were stopping to watch and pet Spot as if it was a real dog. They thoroughly enjoyed interacting with Spot.

Spot proved popular with racegoers after the Grand Prix

"There are lots of high-tech racing cars on show at Silverstone so a robotic dog fitted in well.

"By using Spot to teach robotics, the University of Buckingham will continue to blaze a trail in the teaching of artificial intelligence and robotics.

"As well as providing a pipeline of highly skilled graduates suited to working in the flourishing AI sector in Bucks and Milton Keynes, we are keen to understand how people interact with robots that will become a common sight at places of work and living in the not-too-distant future."

As well as helping students learn about AI and robotics, Spot is also being introduced to businesses and local organisations where the robot may be used. Talks are taking place with the local fire authority, as Spot can go into unsafe buildings and gather data.

Spot is part of a £3.2 million package of joint funding by the Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership and the university helping keep Buckingham at the cutting edge of AI.

As a county, Bucks is leading the way in AI, robotics and driverless cars.

Buckinghamshire Council leader Martin Tett said: "We are proud that Bucks is leading the way in AI and robotics. Initiatives like this help to strengthen the region’s expertise in AI as well as providing wider benefits for the community. AI is going to be increasingly important in all areas of our lives so it's vital to produce graduates with these skills."

Dr Sellahewa attended a ceremony at The Silverstone Experience prior to the Grand Prix with Silverstone managing director Stuart Pringle, Buckingham MP Greg Smith and Bucks Council leader Martin Tett.