Toy Helicopters: The Terminator’s Missing Link

Pretty much all of us have seen those little remote controlled helicopters; douchebags in slacks sell them from kiosks in malls, buzzing people with tiny Airwolfs in an attempt to get them to shell out $50 for something that will likely be boring 20 minutes after you get home, if the batteries last that long. They are little more than a really cool little novelty item.

Except that scientists have been playing with them, and they are now paving the way for machines to just simply not need us. I wrote last year about the amazing unmanned vehicles the military is working on and/or using to keep our soldiers from getting shot at, but these little guys are being turned into autonomous work horses, and since there will be more of them, they are more likely to decide, as a group, that they no longer need us. Okay, maybe that is a bit over dramatic, and maybe we should just be happy that the robot housekeepers the 1950s promised us are on the horizon.

For instance, take these little guys into account:

 

That is a quadcopter autonomously building a tower out of prefabbed parts. They can also cooperate to lift and move objects that one would not be able to lift on its own, and change their angle of flight to go through windows. And the latest trick has been to make them swarm and coordinate like insects. Smart, cooperative insects:

 This is a huge leap for robots, allowing them to act together to accomplish a variety of tasks that may someday allow for some amazing structures to be built without risking people.

And, of course, the military wants a piece of the tiny drone pie. Not only do they want to be able to manufacture drones that aren’t necessarily the multi-million dollar creations that the Crusher and Reaper currently are, but they also need small vehicles capable of doing reconnaissance and at least the search part of “search and rescue”. Now, imagine robots like this, armed, hunting down terrorists, flying in formations hunting forests, mountains, even cities, all networked together working toward the same goal. I guess Minority Report was oddly prophetic.

Although once again, reality kicks fiction right in the groin, because flying quad-copter robots are infinitely cooler than little 3 legged spiders.

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