Category Archives: swarm
Have you ever tried to get a rc helicopter to hover in one place? MIT thinks it can do that, not with just two but thousands of the little beggars all hovering in harmony as part of a project called Flyfire. By using LED-equipped drones the project pledges to build free-floating 3D displays, endowing them with enough smarts and positional awareness to organize themselves into an airborne canvas.
“Since the purpose of this activity is to link food sources together and to transport nutrients around the creature, Atsushi Tero at Hokkaido University in Japan and his colleagues wondered if slime-mould transport networks bore any resemblance to human ones. As they report in Science, they built a template with 36 oat flakes (a favoured food source) placed to represent the locations of cities in the region around Tokyo. They put P. polycephalum on Tokyo itself, and watched it go. They found that many of the links the slime mould made bore a striking resemblance to Tokyo’s existing rail network.”
Pretty cool, but I’m kind of dissappointed that it modelled the existing network. One would hope that such biological models might suggest new potentials for infrastructure, rather than recreating existing ones.
Darpa is researching soft robots to be used to gain covert access to denied or hostile space during combat. The video above demonstrates just one example of such a chem-bot, which moves through fluctuating levels of air inside pockets of expandable rubber skin. Through this technology, the robot is able to go from a rigid to a fluid-like state and shift shape considerably to go through openings smaller than itself.
“The program seeks to develop a ChemBot that can perform several operations in sequence:
- Travel a distance;
- Traverse an arbitrary-shaped opening much smaller than the largest characteristic dimension of the robot itself;
- Reconstitute its size, shape, and functionality after traversing the opening;
- Travel a distance; and
- Perform a function or task using an embedded payload.”
Amazingly, it also looks very similar to Cronenberg’s conception of bio-technology in Existenz.
This is extremely relevant to our previous discussions about a technology that could repair damage after natural disasters and catastrophic events. Other than war scenarios, earthquake rescue operations is one of the more positive applications proposed for this technology.
As we discussed earlier, I think the real breakthrough in technology will not be based on developments of current technology, but on something that mimics biological systems. This could be how we start to imagine our system of “instant architecture”.
“Something shapeless grafted onto existing tissue, something that needs no vanishing point to justify itself but instead welcomes a quivering existence immersed in a real-time vibratory state, here and now. Tangled, intertwined, it seems to be a city, or rather a fragment of a city. Its inhabitants are immunized because they are both vectors and protectors of this complexity. The multiplicity of its interwoven experiences and forms is matched by the apparent simplicity of its mechanisms. The inhabitants draw sustenance from the present, with no time lag. The form of the territorial structure draws its sustenance directly from the present time. It is a zone of emancipation, produced so that we can keep the origins of its founding act eternally alive, so that we can always live with and re-experience that beginning. The public sphere is everywhere, like a pulsating organism driven by postulates that are mutually contradictory and nonetheless true. It belongs to the many, the multitude. The world is terrifying when it’s intelligible, when it clings to some semblance of predictability, when it seeks to preserve a false coherence. In “I’ve heard about,” it is what is not there that defines it, that guarantees its readability, its social and territorial fragility and its indetermination.”
The model uses a packing script to compare the effects on agent behavior by noise and a sound signal. On the left, each agent’s diameter is dictated by a random noise function. On the right, each agent’s diameter is linked to a specific frequency range of the sound file. Through this model, patterns in the music can be analyzed through the effects it has on the agents’ behavior.
First attempts at modeling urban growth in Processing. On the left, a set of agents (white circles) are attracted to hot spots (red dots) which are generated randomly in the space. On the right, the density of agents is tracked over time through accretion of building volumes.