It's early Saturday morning in windy & cold Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Producer's Journal: Gesture drones
By: Heather Sherman
Less than a week after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast, we're here at MIT's Stata Center to film a flying drone that could one day help survivors and rescue workers in a similar scenario.
This drone is unique because it flies based on voice commands... and gestures. Will Lucas be able to get this 'flying thing' airborne? The answer is 'yes' and 'no.'
Our host today is Peng Yu, a 24 year-old Aeronautics and Astronautics student from Beijing, who is part of Professor Brian Williams' Model-based Embedded & Robotic System group in the Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT.
Growing up in Beijing, Peng had his eyes on the skies! He always wanted to work with airplanes. In fact, he hopes one day to work with airplane manufacturers to improve cockpit systems, believing that a more intuitive interface will significantly improve aviation safety.
Peng's work with this voice & gesture-controlled quadcopter plays directly into his future plans, with a major focus on collaboration between humans and robots in planning and execution tasks, especially when things don't go quite according to plan.
But our biggest challenge after finding parking and getting through the locked front door, is trying to mount a Go Pro camera on the quadcopter itself. Made out of a very light foam-type material, it weighs less than 1 pound. Less than the GoPro camera itself.
Our intrepid crew - cameraman Jeremy Rothman and audio technician Ben Didsbury - give it a valiant effort but there is no way we can get the Go Pro mounted onto the quadcopter - and get it to fly. So instead we get creative, putting Go Pro cameras all around the room to get as many angles & POV shots as we can. At one point, I even lie down on top of the Styrofoam city created to help the quadcopter navigate, just to see what the GoPro sees - and to take a quick cat nap.
At several points during the shoot, feeling a bit like King Kong, at least one of our crew knocks over various cardboard 'buildings' on the 'map.' Peng keeps smiling and telling us not to worry about it.
Using Kinect sensors, the quadcopter follows voice & gesture commands, tracks its target to each location, knowing just where to go. It's one thing to read about it - but another to see it first-hand. What a thrill! Lucas can't hide his genuine enthusiasm - actually jumping in the air, shouting "cool" and "awesome" every chance he gets.
To watch the full segment, click here...
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