The British Science Festival is one of the largest celebrations of science and engineering in Europe, with over 250 events taking place over a week in September. This year, the festival took place in Birmingham and the ORCHID Project was invited to take part in a four day exhibition aimed at school-children aged 13-18, held at the University of Birmingham.
The ORCHID exhibition team, which was comprised of PhD Students Zoltán Beck, Elliot Salisbury, James Holyhead and Frederik Auffenberg from the University of Southampton and Matthew Pike and Daniela Dybalova from the University of Nottingham, provided a hands on demonstration of how intelligent agents can be used to automate task allocation within a disaster response setting. The demonstration took the form of a browser based game, where human players were required to manually assign a set of first responders to emergencies, overlayed on a map of southern Birmingham. The players were set the challenge of outperforming an intelligent agent completing the same problem on a different workstation, with prizes being awarded to the best human performers (and chocolates being awarded for participation).
Over the four days of the exhibition, 981 games were played and 15 kg of chocolate consumed. Only one human player (an audiology researcher from Southampton) succeeded in beating the score of the intelligent agent, hopefully demonstrating to the attendees the potential benefits offered by the field of human-agent collectives.