A couple of months ago we got our first look at a synchronized swarm of flying quadrotor robots that both fascinated and terrified us all at the same time. These little guys are cute and fun, but the military implications of them, not to mention the buzzing sound they make as if they were a swarm of really pissed off bees, is enough to send chills down your spine.
However, a couple University of Pennsylvania Doctoral students have found a way to make these things way more awesome than scary. Using ceiling mounted cameras to send positional information to and from the robots they were able to set up a bunch of musical instruments in a room, and make the robots play the James Bond theme song. Check it out.
It’s obviously not the most perfect rendition you’ll ever here, but they’re robots whose only way to play an instrument is to fly into it. It’s still pretty damn cool. Sure, small bombs or gas canisters could easily be strapped to these things, but we certainly like this use a lot better.
The quadrotors were introduced in January and were followed in February by a TED talk by Vijay Kumar from UofP to talk about the bots. He also introduces us to the next phase in the evolution of the robots, a flying robot who, with a simple Microsoft Kinect attached to it, can go into an unknown building, map it out, and bring that map back to the people outside. This sort of technology could be hugely beneficial for exploring locations that are too weak for human entry, places that have experienced disaster, and hell, maybe even hostage situations in which the SWAT team is trying to attain a bit more situational awareness.
SKYNET jokes aside, these autonomous units have potential to be one of the great technological advancements of the century. They are in the early stages of development, but the far reaching implications are huge. More on these flying nano quadrotors as experimenting moves forward.