Floating drone ball brings us one step closer to real Quidditch

Credit: Rekimoto Lab

Drones aren't all gloom and doom. Yes, the Air Force has classified stealth drones, and yes, Amazon probably misled us all about package-delivering drones. But there's a brighter side to drones, and that side could potentially bring us a version of real-life Quidditch that’s getting closer to the version Harry Potter spent so much time playing.

Quidditch has two big problems in the physical world. First, people can’t fly on brooms. We’re still working on that one. Secondly, balls tend not to float. Engineer Jun Rekimoto doesn’t seem to hold gravity in the same regard as the rest of us, and he created a ball, with a drone inside, that can hover. Fittingly, it’s called the Hoverball. And not only can it float, it can move in various directions, changing course instantly. The actual ball itself is pretty simple: there’s a micro-quadcopter inside of a plastic shell. At present, this potential golden snitch is remote-controlled, but Rekimoto plans to program them in the future to offer AI-assisted autonomy to the balls.

As I mentioned, the flying-broom technology isn't quite perfected yet, and we’re still working on jetpacks. So real Quidditch is a ways off, but that doesn't mean we can’t create new sports to incorporate this technology. After all, that’s kind of how sports are created: new tech leads to innovation in game-making.& It could even be incorporated in the sports we already have, if the drone could be made strong enough to give lift to a tennis ball or a baseball instead of a plastic one. You could literally slow balls down, making sports accessible to everyone.

Wrote Rekimoto and his team about the ball, "with this technology, physical dynamics of a ball can be re-programmed by sports designers, and new ball-playing vocabularies, such as hovering, anti-gravity, proximity, or remote manipulation, can be introduced to extend the way people interact with balls."

Think about how long it’s been since the world of sports received a new type of ball. I know one hasn't been created during my lifetime, unless you count the Vortex football. This could change sports, but it needs a bit more work.At present the proof of concept Hoverball can only float for five minutes. And while the remote control aspect could lead to some interesting strategic sports, having the ball be autonomous (like in Quidditch) would literally be a game changer.

Rekimoto Lab, via Motherboard

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