Dinosaur retrofit

A month or so ago, I had an email from a Dr Lucy Rogers (@DrLucyRogers), who wanted to talk about human-sized animatronic dinosaurs. Animatronic dinosaurs are much more interesting that what I normally get to talk about on a Monday morning, and we’ve been in touch since then, the culmination of our dinosaur conversation being the video below.


The dinosaurs in question are at Blackgang Chine, a theme park on the Isle of Wight. They’re now pretty ancient, and were programmed a very long time ago with a limited range of behaviours (roar, lift stompy little foot, move head, repeat). The original hardware is so old it might have seen some real dinosaurs, so the challenge that Dr Rogers’ team had set themselves was to update the park’s dinosaurs to have longer, more interesting and more variable behaviour loops – using Raspberry Pis.

Dr Rogers was helped by Pi veterans Neil Ford (@neilcford) and Andy Stanford-Clark (@andysc) – all the programming was done in Node-RED, which we’ve recently been exploring ourselves via workshops at the Cambridge Raspberry Jam – it’s a nice way to visualise flows of events.

Later in the year, Dr Rogers will be visiting a Chinese animatronic dinosaur factory (I am so jealous), explaining how they used Raspberry Pis in their control boxes, and leading some tutorial sessions. We’ve already hooked her up with some user groups in China; we’re looking forward to finding out what she gets up to!