Hold onto your seats, folks, because AWS just hosted a wild and woolly race in the heart of Calgary.
On April 28th, 50 techies revved their engines and got ready to rumble at the AWS DeepRacer Battle of Alberta, held at Computer Modelling Group headquarters. This fun-filled event was all about celebrating the upcoming launch of AWS Canada West (Calgary) Region in late 2023/early 2024, and the power of Calgary’s tech sector.
As more and more organizations get hip to the awesome potential of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning solutions, there’s an ever-growing need for a workforce that’s as digital-savvy as a cyborg. Luckily, AWS DeepRacer is here to save the day, providing anyone (yep, even total newbies) with an exciting opportunity to get hands-on experience with ML. And how do you do that? By racing 1/18th scale, fully autonomous cars, of course.
The participants at the Battle of Alberta came from a dozen-plus Calgary tech companies, including Computer Modelling Group (CMG), Blackline Safety, Curve Dental, and Smart Technologies. They all had two weeks to get acquainted with AWS DeepRacer, practicing their skills and perfecting their moves in a 3-D computer simulator. This was the perfect way to learn advanced ML techniques, including Reinforcement Learning (RL).
Reinforcement Learning is a special approach to ML training that doesn’t rely on labeled data. Instead, it focuses on learning complex behaviors and making short-term decisions that support a longer-term goal. And as if that weren’t enough, it also gives participants the chance to race their cars in an exciting and totally autonomous racing experience.
The vehicles themselves are four-wheel drive, 1/18th-scale models with a monster truck chassis. Vehicle cameras capture track image data, while a tiny computer under the hood interprets the reinforcement model to control steering, throttle, and wheel direction. But don’t worry, the only thing the racers have to worry about is how much power they’re giving their car – the rest is up to the DeepRacer.
In each elimination round, competitors had just three minutes to complete their fastest lap. It was an intense day of competition, but there was plenty of camaraderie and fun to be had. And when all was said and done, the team from Curve Dental took the top spot with a lap time of just 7.898 seconds. Pason and Cenovus took second and third place, respectively, with lap times of 9.109 and 9.354 seconds.
If you’re over 16 and you want to get in on the DeepRacer action, you’re in luck. This program is accessible to anyone, from high school students to corporate executives. In fact, companies like Capital One, BMW, Deloitte, JP Morgan Chase, Accenture, and Liberty Mutual are all using DeepRacer to teach their employees how to build, train, and deploy machine learning models in a hands-on way.
And hey, who knows? Maybe one day you’ll be zooming around the track with the best of them.