There are plans for a new zoo to be built in western Sydney, but first, students and technology buffs will get to hack it.
Sydney Zoo, which is set to sit on a 16.5-hectare (40.8-acre) site in Bungarribee, is collaborating with Western Sydney University to make the animal park a high-tech experience, not only for the visitors but the animals. The zoo will host a range of native Australian fauna, as well as exotic creatures including elephants and chimpanzees.
Sydney Zoo is expected to open in late 2017 pending development application approval from the New South Wales government, a spokesperson told Mashable Australia.
It’s not often that zoos and startups work together, but to come up with ideas for how anything from augmented reality to drones could be used on-site, the university is hosting a hackathon Friday.
After the hackathon, visiting the zoo should be a wholly “technologically-enabled experience,” Don Wright, a senior manager of Western Sydney University’s LaunchPad Program, told Mashable Australia. The event will focus on three main areas: Curating the visitor experience with technology, animal conservation and welfare, and immersive displays.
Using an app and complete Wi-Fi coverage, the zoo could interact with visitors from start to finish. “We’re trying to underpin the whole visitor experience with this mobile device-enable capability,” Wright said. “Prior to getting to the zoo, if you download the app, you’ll be getting fed alerts and information about your day. It might be telling you traffic information, or when certain displays are on.”
He pointed to Levi Stadium in San Francisco as an example of a venue that has employed comprehensive technology to support the visitor. “There is lots of focus on reducing queues, getting food to people faster, and using real-time data through the whole facility to deliver a better experience,” he explained.
To that end, the zoo could use real-time data collection to make sure people are having a good time. For example, sensors could help management understand where crowds are forming and move people along.
When it comes to the animals, they’re open to trying robotics, automation and drone technology to support animal conservation and animal welfare. “It could be limiting the amount of human interaction by using drones for feeding or cleaning,” Wright explained. Before anyone gets carried away with tech the animals don’t want or need, experts will be on-hand during the hackathon to highlight the habits and characteristics of each animal.
Finally, the hackathon will be taking a look at how the zoo could convey scientific information to school groups and other visitors. This could include augmented reality displays or even holograms.
Wright said the team have a roadmap for bringing the hackathon’s best ideas to reality. Sydney Zoo will be working with the university on further research and development, and hopes to collaborate with local startups and small businesses on the initiative.
If Sydney Zoo is a chance to see an ostrich take on a drone, count us in.