The University of Southampton

Erica the interactive rhino gets ready to hit the streets

Published: 10 April 2013

An interactive rhino that responds to faces, tweeting and touch is set to take to the streets of Southampton this summer as part of a project involving the University of Southampton and Marwell Zoo.

Students and staff from Electronics and Computer Science have adopted the life-sized model rhino from Marwell Zoo as part of the zoo’s Go! Rhino scheme to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

They are now bringing Erica the Rhino to life, fully customising her and equipping her with a range of digital features. When she moves to the city centre this summer she will be able to respond to and interact with passers-by in a variety of ways including moving her ears and eyes and making sounds. She will also be able to engage in social networking and converse with bystanders and fans through twitter.

Go! Rhino is an initiative run by Marwell Zoo that will see a number of rhino sculptures inhabiting the streets of Southampton showcasing the wealth of artistic talent in the area while highlighting the significant conservation threat facing wild rhinos.

“There will be a number of rhinos living on the city streets this summer but Erica will stand out as she is the only one that will be able to interact with people that visit her,” said project coordinator Dr Kirk Martinez, from the University’s Web and Internet Science research group.

“This is an excellent opportunity to showcase some of the state-of-the-art technology that is being developed here at the University. We are currently working hard at adapting Erica so that she can fully interact with passers-by this summer and look forward to unveiling her in the very near future,” he added.

Students from the University’s Management School are also involved in the project to raise the profile of Erica. They have created, promoted and are now daily managing a twitter, youtube, facebook and instagram profile and have also developed and are maintaining a blog to broadcast the project's development.

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