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Indoor drone shows are here

A Lucie micro drone takes off from a performer’s hand as part of a drone show. Photo: Verity Studios 2017

2017 was the year where indoor drone shows came into their own. Verity Studios’ Lucie drones alone completed more than 20,000 autonomous flights. A Synthetic Swarm of 99 Lucie micro drones started touring with Metallica (the tour is ongoing and was just announced the 5th highest grossing tour worldwide for 2017). Micro drones are now performing at Madison Square Garden as part of each New York Knicks home game — the first resident drone show in a full-scale arena setting. Since early 2017, a drone swarm has been performing weekly on a first cruise ship. And micro drones performed thousands of flights at Changi Airport Singapore as part of its 2017 Christmas show.

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Micro drones swarm above Metallica

Metallica’s European WorldWired tour, which opened to an ecstatic crowd of 15,000 in Copenhagen’s sold-out Royal Arena this Saturday, features a swarm of micro drones flying above the band. Shortly after the band breaks into their hit single “Moth Into Flame”, dozens of micro drones start emerging from the stage, forming a large rotating circle above the stage. As the music builds, more and more drones emerge and join the formation, creating increasingly complex patterns, culminating in a choreography of three interlocking rings that rotate in position.

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Drone shows: Creative potential and best practices

Examples of live drone performances (starting top left): Starbright Holiday Drone Show (Intel-Disney), ABB’s 125th Anniversary Celebration (Verity Studios), Meet Your Creator (Saatchi & Saatchi/KMel Robotics (acquired by Qualcomm), Dance with drones on America’s Got Talent (Elevenplay).
Examples of live drone performances (starting top left): Starbright Holiday Drone Show (Intel-Disney), ABB’s 125th Anniversary Celebration (Verity Studios), Meet Your Creator (Saatchi & Saatchi/KMel Robotics) acquired by Qualcomm, Dance with drones on America’s Got Talent (Elevenplay).

Drone shows, such as the ones shown above, are a new and rapidly evolving sector of the entertainment industry.

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Flying robots perform 100th show on Broadway, using new localization technology and algorithms

Photo: Cirque du Soleil - PARAMOUR on Broadway - at the Lyric Theatre. Featuring Flying Machine Design and Choreography by Verity Studios. Pictured: Ruby Lewis as 'Indigo' Ryan Vona as 'Joey'. ©, Cirque du Soleil Theatrical. Photo by: Richard Termine
Photo: Cirque du Soleil – PARAMOUR on Broadway – at the Lyric Theatre. Featuring Flying Machine Design and Choreography by Verity Studios. Pictured: Ruby Lewis as ‘Indigo’ Ryan Vona as ‘Joey’. ©, Cirque du Soleil Theatrical. Photo by: Richard Termine

Since April, a troupe of eight flying machines has been performing in a Cirque du Soleil Broadway show called Paramour. This group of quadcopters has now completed its first 100 shows in front of a live theater audience, without a single incident. Given the string of recent safety incidents with drones (there’s more), this begs the question: How was this accomplished?

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Key take-aways from the DroneApps Forum

DroneApps_Conference_logoThe first DroneApps Forum in Lausanne, Switzerland, recently assembled 150 drone professionals from Europe, the US, Japan, and Australia for a two-day exchange of ideas. What set the event apart was its focus on reporting from commercial drone makers and commercial drone users — a more-than-welcome change from the orchestrated corporate news releases, crowdfunding (over-)promises, and CGI marketing stunts we’ve become accustomed to. 

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New quadrocopter video points to a future for flying machines in entertainment

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We’ve seen robots on stage before: Humanoids have been featured in theater productions in Switzerland, Austria, and Japan, and industrial robots have played parts in dance performances and other staged events. Flying robots have also played a theatrical role, for example in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Texas A&M, a dance set to a Schubert piano trio at MIT, as well as in advertising. Some robots have even gone pro: Robothespian was designed for acting and is rented out for performances.

But [tweetquote]the dance between human and machine has never looked quite like this[/tweetquote].

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Mapping in the Cloud

RoboEarth - mapping in the cloud

UPDATE: New video of a collaborative, cloud-based mapping experiment. Mapping is essential for mobile robots and a cornerstone of many more robotics applications that require a robot to interact with its physical environment. It is widely considered the most difficult perceptual problem in robotics, both from an algorithmic but also from a computational perspective. Mapping essentially requires solving a huge optimization problem over a large amount of images and their extracted features. This requires beefy computers and high-end graphics cards – resulting in power-hungry and expensive robots.

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Cubli – A cube that can jump up, balance, and walk across your desk

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Update: New video of final robot! My colleagues at the Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control at ETH Zurich have created [tweetquote]a small robotic cube that can autonomously jump up and balance on any one of its corners[/tweetquote].

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Behind the scenes at TED Global: Raffaello D’Andrea and team demo amazing quadrotor “athletes”

With reporting and photos by Dario Brescianini and Mark Mueller and timelapse video by  James Duncan Davidson.
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Raffaello D’Andrea juggles quadrotors at TED Global 2013.

A quadrocopter swoops through the air to serve a glass of water without spilling a drop. Another gets two of its propellers cut off, yet still easily flies across the arena. “It looks like magic!” says ETH Zurich‘s Raffaello D’Andrea, but it took a lot of research, hard work and planning to bring this ‘magic trick’ to TED Global.

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The Swinging Blind Juggler

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert L. Stephenson

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Video: Throwing and catching an inverted pendulum – with quadrocopters

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Two of the most challenging problems tackled with quadrocopters so far are balancing an inverted pendulum and juggling balls. My colleagues at ETH Zurich’s Flying Machine Arena have now combined the two.

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So long, and thanks for all the bots!

Robohub - PR2 waving

So, depending on who you ask, Willow Garage is shutting down, pursuing commercial interests, or changing direction. But things are not as dire as some may think: ROS is fine (the OSRF will support it) and there are many options for Willow Garage to explore. Personally I’m hoping it will be snatched up by Stanford or another academic institution and become a research institute. But given the number of robots they have out (and their price tags!), a commercial path into the future seems even more likely. In any case, I doubt that Willow Garage will disappear just like that.

What caused the changes is that Willow’s founder and funder, Scott Hassan, has decided that it’s time to wean Willow Garage from his private financial support.

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3’600-strong underwater robot sensor network returns 1’000’000th measurement, has scientists craving for more

Apex_deployment_Germany

The Argo project, which has deployed a network of more than 3’600 robots covering all of the world’s oceans, has returned it’s 1’000’000th measurement.

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Surrounded by his quadrocopter drones on stage, Raffaello D’Andrea explains feedback control and talks about the coming Machine Revolution

Raffaello DAndrea Quadrocopter2

During the 20 minute presentation, Raffaello D’Andrea revealed some of the key concepts behind his group’s impressive demonstrations of quadrocopters juggling, throwing and catching balls, dancing, and building structures – and illustrated them with live examples with quadrocopters flying on stage.

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Analysis: Robot learning in the cloud

Cloud robotics, a shorthand for the idea of leveraging the Internet for robots, offers unprecedented opportunities for robot learning. Apart from using the World Wide Web for faster communication or faster computation, a key opportunity is to allow robots to create and collaboratively update shared knowledge repositories. Hosted in a shared cloud storage infrastructure, such knowledge bases for robots could enable robots to cope with the complexities of human environments and offer a simple, powerful way for life-long robot learning.