Postdoc, Stanford, Mechanical Eng.
PhD, UC Berkeley, Electrical Eng.
email me: dsdrew at stanford.edu
The other day I wanted to move a big houseplant of mine to a spot where it would get more midday sun. I'm not home enough during the early afternoon to really remember where the sun shines brightest. What's a simple and cheap way to figure this out? My engineer brain says to prototype some sort of photodiode array with Arduino and log the results... but what if I could just take a handful of tiny robots out of my pocket and throw them into the room? This isn't a problem that requires much intelligence, mobility, or lifetime; all they have to do is spread out in one room and record light every 30 minutes. I won't even pick them up when they're done, I'll let them "self-destruct."
Flynn, Anita M. "Gnat robots (and how they will change robotics)." (1987).
I hate when people fly quadcoptors near my head, especially the little ones that make the extremely high pitched rotor noises (must be the primal fear of eye gouging). Just imagine when autonomous swarm technology matures and we have thousands of them flying around at once. Right now the research is heavily focused on industrial and commercial applications, but even then someone is going to have to interact with these swarms. How do you interact with Honda's ASIMO? You can shake its hand. How do you interact with a Boston Dynamics Spot? Maybe pat it on the head. Interacting with a swarm of buzzing insects is out of the realm of human experience.
I want to use virtual reality as a tool to simulate human interaction with autonomous microrobot swarms. How can a swarm express its intentions? How should it use situational context to modify its own behavior?
One estimate is that there are 10 quintrillion insects on earth at any one time- that's 10^19. The trillion-sensor movement as currently conceptualized relies on human installation and maintenance, with industrial pushes largely towards longer device lifetime so humans have to go service motes less often. Let's provide each of these sensor motes with its own mobility platform; we already know from nature that there is an insect to suit every environment and that they have no trouble spreading. Moving beyond the (wildly important) application example of "search and rescue," how can we use these swarms to change the world?
The future of flying robots - Vijay Kumar from UPenn