Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s robotic game Duckietown has made its way onto Kickstarter as the researchers behind the coding platform’s development want to make it a way of teaching more people how to build robots.
To date, Duckietown, which comprises a track going through – you guessed it – a rubber duck town, has taught 700 students in 10 countries how to code their own robots.
Around the town, there are various obstacles, traffic flow controls, street signs and more. Little robotic cars are programmed to complete various tasks, with a little AI thrown in for god measure. Although the concept seems a little bit of fun – after all, the task is to ferry mini rubber ducks around the fictitious town – there is a serious angle, teaching people how robotics and AI works.
What’s revolutionary about Duckietown is that it’s very affordable for colleges and universities to implement. Students are equipped with a box of parts to build the town and the fleet of self-driving cars (powered only be cameras) and can then learn how to program their town with the help of lectures and online education material.
“During the Duckietown learning experience, students build and program their Duckiebots to navigate autonomously through the Duckietown cities,” the researchers explain on its Kickstarter page. “Students work together to create new functionalities and improve existing ones.”
MIT’s project has already raised more than £41,000, easily overtaking its target of £37,404. It wants to use the money to roll out new algorithms and machine-learning tasks to make Duckietown more enthralling.
“We believe that Duckietown should have a low barrier of entry but still be useful for science and high-level education.” the researchers added. “The hardware should be as inexpensive as possible and the software infrastructure should make it easy to experiment with new ideas without worrying about the low level details.”