Debut of Aberystwyth University’s Pet Dragon Set for BeachLab

A new robotic pet dragon will make its first public appearance at Aberystwyth University’s BeachLab event which takes place at Aberystwyth Bandstand on Saturday 15 June.

Decked out in bright red and featuring big green eyes and a flashing tail, the dragon lives in the University’s new Smart Home Lab where it is part of a study into how robots might help older people live independently for longer.

Alongside the dragon there will be a host of other robots of all shapes, sizes and uses on show at the hugely popular BeachLab event which will be open to the public from 10am until 4pm.

Also on show will be a smart wheelchair, flying drones which are being developed to assist with communication following natural disasters, low-cost robots used to monitor changes to the Welsh coastline and even a trick-performing dog.

Current and former members of the University’s after school robotics club and undergraduate robotics society will also be showing their creations, including a crevice climbing robot developed by Rowen King who is currently studying at Sheffield University.

And, for those who would like to learn the basics of how to build a robot, staff will be on hand to offer advice and guidance, and there will be a maze for budding young robot drivers.

BeachLab also marks the beginning of a week-long programme of events to celebrate all things robotic.

On Monday 17 June, Dr Patricia Shaw, a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Computer Science, will be discussing technology for independent living at Aberystwyth Science Cafe at Aberystwyth Arts Centre. Open to all, the event starts at 7:30pm.

On Tuesday 18, Wednesday 19 and Thursday 20 June the University will host the Robot Olympics.

In collaboration with Ceredigion County Council, over 300 pupils from Ceredigion Schools will be taking part in team competitions involving building and adapting robots.

Dr Shaw is the coordinator for the week’s programme.

“We’re delighted to be hosting BeachLab once more at the Bandstand which has proven to be such a popular event over the years. Robots are becoming an increasingly important part of our day to day lives and so it is great to be able to demonstrate some of the research taking place at the University, and the potential benefits this work could bring.”

Based at the Smart Home Lab, a recently completed bungalow on the Penglais campus, Dr Shaw is working with robots that are designed to help older people live independently.

The robotic dragon is one of a series of companion and assistant robots that are being tested which interact with people.

Able to move its eyes, ears and light up its tail, the dragon can also monitor an older person’s movement providing valuable data for planning care, and also prompt a person to move or interact with it.

Visitors to BeachLab will also have the opportunity to suggest a name for the dragon.