Among the swarm of consumer drones
to emerge this year, a number have been aimed squarely at action sports devotees. What defines these vehicles is a tracking feature that enables the drone to autonomously follow athletes from above, but these generally require the user to carry a smartphone to communicate their GPS position. Streaming from a built-in camera to a smartphone app, the Mind4 drone instead allows users to select any object to follow onscreen, a feature that could lead to new possibilities in aerial drone photography.
A team of engineers, mathematicians, and computer scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA are developing a robotic system for electric cars that can independently find its way around unknown spaces, navigating around obstacles in order to find its goal. It is hoped that it will soon be capable of finding a parking space or charging station and parking there, safely without a single scratch.
Swiss company senseFly is best known for its fixed-wing industrial drones, such as the eBee
and swinglet CAM
. Parrot, on the other hand, has made its name with its consumer quadcopters
. So, now that Parrot has owned senseFly for a couple of years, what's the result? The new senseFly eXom quadcopter, which uses multiple visual and ultrasonic sensors to avoid obstacles and maintain precise autonomous flight.
It's hard not to get caught up in the romance of delivery drones
, especially when start-ups keep producing spiffy promotional videos set in a fantastical land of airborne courier services. But underneath all this hoopla, progress is certainly being made. London-based Bizzby Sky has begun trials of its autonomous drone delivery service, claiming it is capable of shipping small objects at the touch of a smartphone button.
In addition to shotguns, regulations
and laser defense systems
, limited battery life is an obstacle that drone companies need to contend with in driving widespread adoption. Berlin-based startup SkySense is looking to play a part, developing a landing pad that doubles as a wireless charging station and promises yet another layer of automation.
In the near future, you might be surprised to visit to the giant hardware store in your town and find yourself greeted by a chatty robot rather than a human sales assistant. A harbinger of this age of robotic shopping is being trialled with two Oshbot robot sales assistants at an Orchard Supply Hardware store in San Jose, California. Built by Lowe’s Innovation Labs and Silicon Valley technology company Fellow Robots using "science fiction prototyping," the OSHbots are designed to not only identify and locate merchandise, but to speak to customers in their own languages.
Imagine if you were trying to develop an autonomous robot, and it continually made a mistake but you couldn't tell why. Ultimately, you might end up having to review all the lines of code that made up its programming, hoping that the error would just jump out at you. In order to avoid such scenarios, MIT's Ali-akbar Agha-mohammadi and Shayegan Omidshafiei have created a system known as measurable virtual reality (MVR). It projects a robot's perceptions and intentions onto the floor, so that designers can see what it's thinking.
If there's anything we can take from the barrage of delivery drones
to emerge recently, its that the technology has the potential to transport objects with unprecedented efficiency. Graduate student Alec Momont from Holland's Delft University of Technology is looking to tap into this ability to reduce emergency response times to cardiac arrest incidents. His Ambulance Drone prototype carries a defibrillator to the scene and promises to dramatically increase the rate of survival.
Fans of the Disney classic Fantasia
will no doubt remember the Sorcerer's Apprentice
segment of that film, in which a hapless Mickey Mouse accidentally brings an army of mops to life. Well, Cirque du Soleil has teamed up with ETH Zurich and spinoff group Verity Studios to create a somewhat similar video entitled Sparked
– instead of mops, however, it features a fleet of lampshade-clad quadcopters.