Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Paris Day 6

This was our last day of official visits. We visited INRIA, a prominent French technology company. I had just come across an article about them in the papers the previous day. In particular, we visited their automated vehicle lab.

It was a very informative visit. We didn't waste any time with presentations and were immediately shown the car. Then the questions just started to flow non stop for a couple of hours. The engineer was really nice enough to answer all our questions.

I learnt a few interesting things: (1) they use dedicated microcontrollers to control subsystems of the vehicle (2) they use standard protocols and parts to build their subsystems (3) the main controls of the car run on a Linux 2.2 kernel (4) they merely use a Windows PC for the user GUI. I guess it would not be good for the car to have it's driving system BSOD while on the road.

We were shown several methods that they were currently working on to get the car to recognise it's surroundings and navigate it's surroundings based on live telemetry. We were also shown how the cars could talk to each other using wifi or other wireless networking work. The engineer explained how they have gradually changed from a purely robotics lab into a full fledged ICT lab.

After the visit, we were treated to a four [yes four!] course lunch at their cafeteria. Needless to say, we had our fill of food. Then, we went to the Palais de Versailles, which was supposedly the most beautiful palace in Europe. However, when we arrived, much of it was being refurbished. There was construction everywhere. I guess they're getting it ready for spring/summer. So, it wasn't too impressive to me.

Then, we randomly dropped by the Paris Opera. On the way, we came across a free, self cleaning, toilet. Yes, we became extremely amazed and JiaHui and Chris tried it out. People were staring at us, a bunch of crazy asians, giggling, laughing and taking pictures outside a public loo. The french certainly have many good ideas on how to do things.

As all the tickets for the show at the Opera were already sold out, we couldn't catch any show. We then broke up for dinner. Some of use went back to Antony to grab a bite. Our group decided to return to the cheese fondue place for dinner. Yummy! Then, we did a little bit of souvenir shopping and went back.

*** photo: jiahui being excited by the automated public toilet ***

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