Now that drones can fly in intricate patterns researchers at Queens University have created flying robots that self-assemble into floating shapes and can “3D print” objects in midair. The drones, called BitDrones, come in three varieties. The first, the PixelDrone, shows little messages on an LED screen. Another drone shows a floating touchscreen display and ShapeDrones are contained inside little cages that can connect to each other. Each drone knows where all of the others are in space and they can create objects in space with the help of a central controller.
Twelve robots can fly at once but in the future the researchers expect to be able to fly hundreds of drones at once.
“BitDrones brings flying programmable matter, such as featured in the futuristic Disney movie Big Hero 6, closer to reality,” said Dr. Roel Vertegaal, a researcher on the project. “It is a first step towards allowing people to interact with virtual 3D objects as real physical objects.”
The researchers call this a “real reality” interface in that the pixel are all physical objects. By moving all of the drones in sync or interacting with them using the DisplayDrones researchers can simulate almost any simple object. You can even give your floating a robot a set of eyes and ears thanks to a Skype-connected BitDrone that can transmit audio and video. I, for one, welcome our floating drone overlords.