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Small, speedy robots zip, roll and swarm through the air

Small, speedy robots zip, roll and swarm through the air

Posting in Technology

New agile aerial robots developed at the University of Pennsylvania can do flips, fly through moving hoops and even make music videos.

Small flying robots that flip, swarm and make music charmed the audience at the TED2012 conference, which ends Friday, March 2.

In this video, University of Pennsylvania professor Vijay Kumar demonstrated the capabilities of these robots, which he developed with students at Penn's General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) Lab.

These agile aerial robots can

  • do a 360-degree flip in the air in a half a second (3:45)
  • fly through hoops (6:50)
  • gauge how quickly a hoop is moving through the air to fly through it (7:05)
  • coordinate with other robots to build a formation in the air (10:00)
  • work together to pick up a heavy payload (11:00)
  • work together to build cubic structures (11:30)
  • enter an unknown space, fly through it and build a "mental" map of the building (13:00)
  • form an orchestra to play music (14:45)

(The times named in parentheses refer to the point in the video when this feature is demonstrated.) The music video at 14:45 is a must-see, with nine robots autonomously playing six instruments.

The robots could be used to send into buildings as first responders to look for intruders or to look for biochemical or gaseous leaks. They could also be used to look into collapsed buildings after natural disasters, to measure radiation levels or to transport cargo or assemble structures.

They can also be used to wow audiences, as you'll see in the video below.

via: TED2012

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Laura Shin

Features Editor

Laura Shin has been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times, and is currently a contributor at Forbes. Previously, she worked at Newsweek, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and LearnVest. She holds degrees from Stanford University and Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure