Smart-swarming mini-copters create dazzling 3D display

How could you create a three-dimensional display that can move around? Those cool dudes at MIT's SENSEable City Laboratory figured they'd create Flyfire, equipping a large number of micro helicopters with multicolored and controllable LEDs. They're all capable of reacting to each other in a swarm, with each functioning as a single self-organizing pixel in this moving 3D display.

It's unclear if the MIT tinkerers, along with their collaborators at the ARES Lab (Aerospace Robotics and Embedded Systems Laboratory), have actually gotten this spectacularly crazy Flyfire idea to work yet, but it does seem to be barely within the realm of possibility.

Those micro copters would have to be terrifically precise, though. We know from experience that it's not easy to control just one R/C helicopter, much less getting thousands of them to synchronize with each other. And even the slightest breeze might ruin the entire display. But just think, if you ganged up a couple of thousand of these robot helicopters, all responding to each other with intricately programmed commands, this could be a terrific techno-tour de force.

MIT SENSEable City Laboratory, via Oh Gizmo