Acrobatic Quadrocopters

by on February 23, 2013 at 7:36 am in Science | Permalink

Imagine balancing a pole on one finger then throwing it into the air and catching it with another finger. Then watch this.

Machines have been stronger than us for a long time but now they are becoming more flexible, agile and graceful than us as well, not to mention smarter. More here on the math.

Hat tip: Umair Haque.

Jonathan February 23, 2013 at 8:22 am

Wow. Though the linked site indicates that the programming involved is far from perfect, the fact that they were able to do this even once is amazing.

Rahul February 23, 2013 at 11:58 pm

Amazing, no doubt. But I’ll add a caveat: AI has always done better with very difficult yet narrow and precisely defined problems in controlled settings (like this one).

Less difficult, yet fuzzy and with more variation and background noise is the sort of problem that’s been AI’s sore blind spot. Goggle’s Car was a rare exception.

Hoover February 23, 2013 at 9:04 am

Perhaps a markets in everything: circuses, featuring various specialised robots doing juggling, acrobatics, synchronised flying…

Colin February 23, 2013 at 10:19 am

What is all that carping I hear (by friends and in the media) that an automated car can’t possibly handle the amount of variables that a human driver does?

Yeah. Right.

Mark Thorson February 23, 2013 at 11:22 am

You can use physics to predict exactly what a pole will do. You can’t predict exactly what a human driver will do. Inevitably, it will be necessary to ban them.

Jonathan February 23, 2013 at 11:54 am

“You can’t predict exactly what a human driver will do.” Yet.

CD February 23, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Think about your interactions with pedestrians — recognizing whether a person has seen you or not, figuring out their likely movements from a whole bunch of cues.

Mark Thorson February 23, 2013 at 9:27 pm

Google Brain will monitor your visual cortex so that won’t be a problem. It will know what you’re looking at and present personalized, targetted advertising.

What if the pedestrian doesn’t have Google Brain? By that point, you won’t be able to buy stuff or receive payment without it. Only anarchists and other criminals won’t have Google Brain.

Bret February 23, 2013 at 11:41 am

With all the talk about the use of drones to kill terrorists and the debate whether or not to use them within the boundaries of the United States, it seems odd to me that no one considers that this technology forms the basis for personal drones. In about ten years, for a few hundred dollars, anyone will be able to build an incredibly maneuverable autonomous drone that will be able to find and destroy a target.

Technology is wonderful but dangerous.

Alex K. February 23, 2013 at 12:38 pm

“In about ten years, for a few hundred dollars, anyone will be able to build an incredibly maneuverable autonomous drone that will be able to find and destroy a target.”

Indeed.

It’s starting to cement in my imagination that only a system of a permanent army of watchdog drones — with a density roughly proportional to the density of the population of the area, with periodic replacement for battery life reasons — can deal with the safety issues that ubiquitous personal drones bring about. Presumably the army of drones will use various encryption systems for identifying every single drone and its owner.

Some “applications” for rogue drones that the army of watchdog drones should thwart:
— ” Throw your wallet to the drone, or I’ll use the gun in the drone’s equipment”
— ” Put the contents of the cash register within easy reach of the drone, or I’ll firebomb your store”
— ” Liberate prisoners X and Y, or I’ll drop gas over this stadium ”
— etc.

Also, what will happen to countries that will not be able to afford such an army of watchdog drones ?

Mark Thorson February 23, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Those countries will be ruled by “dronelords”. Whoever gets air control first becomes the regional king.

A good question is whether the ideal counterforce to a drone is another drone, as opposed to artillery, barrage balloons, manned aircraft, GPS jamming, or something else.

Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins) February 23, 2013 at 3:19 pm

I suggest you delete this post, and start designing the game “Dronelords” Tagline: “The battle for supremacy begin in your backyard.”

Keith February 23, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Oh man. We are soooo unemployed. I’m going back to bed.

Nemo February 23, 2013 at 1:02 pm

How long will it be before Amazon starts delivering small items from central locations throughout cities using these things?

Rahul February 23, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Never?

Packet February 24, 2013 at 2:00 pm

I would be impressed if they were able to balance a (federal) budget.

Nick February 24, 2013 at 6:29 pm

“Machines have been stronger than us for a long time…”

Not when you force them to operate under anything like the same constraints as us, i.e. carry their own power supplies capable of operating for days without recharge. Biological structures are fairly optimal when it comes to speed, weight and power, whilst maintaining maximum adaptability. We’re not close to matching them, much less exceeding.

Dan Weber February 25, 2013 at 10:42 am

LaserMotive has been able to keep a quadrocopter recharged via laser power for half a day, when it only had a 5 minute battery. And that was a few years ago; the tech has only been improving since then.

James H February 25, 2013 at 9:07 am

And someone’s already put a gun on it. http://youtu.be/SNPJMk2fgJU

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