Flying Robots Built A Tower, Bring On The Robopocalypse

By David Wharton | Updated

As you might guess, we’re big fans of robots here at GFR. Big robots, little robots, real robots, fantastical robots. We love ’em all, from Robby to R2 to that big lug the Iron Giant. It is our philosophy that robots are awesome, with one crucial exception: we don’t like it when they try to kill all humans. Sadly, the inevitable robopocalypse is now one step closer. As NPR reports, a group of flying robots just built a 20-foot tower all by themselves. It’s just a matter of time before they realize they can start dive-bombing us and chopping at us with their whirly-blades.

We may be lucky in this case, though, because these flying robots were apparently liberal arts majors. The robot-assisted tower construction was part of an art project, unfolding in a gallery near Paris. The tower, a twisting edifice designed by Swiss architects Fabio Gramazio and Matthias Kohler, was built out of light, polystyrene bricks. Here’s a picture of one of the bots at work:

As NPR reporter Roberty Krulwich describes it, the team of four robots would lift each brick from automated dispensers using “small plungers,” then deposit it in place. They even knew how to plug themselves into their chargers when their batteries began to die. You can watch the tower come together in the video below.

If you’re wondering how exactly this all worked, apparently the robots were being guided by a motion-capture system embedded in the ceiling which directed the work. This sort of thing even has a nifty acronym already: FMEC, or Flying Machine Enabled Construction. You can read more about the technology here.

If this all seems pretty amazing, that’s not even the most outlandish part of the story. Riffing off the flying construction workers, NPR also references a story from architecture magazine eVolo (which would make a decent name for a robotic overlord, now that I think about it) about two Korean architects who have proposed building a high-rise building using robotic bees. That should give the “grey goo” theorists the cold sweats, but as for me, I’m just shaking my head in wonder that we live in a world where robot bees working construction is a feasible possibility.

Although I do need to rework my robopocalypse survival plan. I’d never even considered robot bees…


Thanks to Den Shewman for sending us the story!

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