Imagine if Michelangelo had been able to use drones—perhaps the Sistine Chapel wouldn’t have taken so long.
A group of researchers at MIT’s Media Lab have created an interface for drones that swaps the bulky radio controller for a pen. When researchers run the motion-tracking pen over a flat surface, the modified drones draw on the walls using markers attached to them. MIT has dubbed the drawing drone a “flying pantograph.”
The drones don’t exactly duplicate what the person is drawing. The software takes a moment to catch up so sometimes the drone starts drawing a new line before the operator has finished with an old line. The drawing that results looks like a cross between a toddler’s wall scrawlings and the worst idle doodlings of all time.
The technology hints at one potential use for the burgeoning drone industry: interacting with things remotely. This concept could be applied to a multitude of situations: Bomb defusing (instead of deployment) via drone; fixing power lines from afar; responding to emergencies in disaster zones. Graffiti is another, less noble, application that humanity also seems to like. And then there are other, more nefarious implications, such as policing with force by proxy.
“Not only mechanically extending a human artist, the drone plays a crucial part of the expression as its own motion dynamics and software intelligence add new visual language to the art,” MIT said in a release. Jackson Pollock probably would have crashed a lot of drones if he’d had access to this technology.