Aerospace & Defense

BitDrones: Interactive, Programmable 3D Nanocopter Displays


Researchers at Queen's University's Human Media Lab introduce BitDrones, which allow users to explore virtual 3D information by interacting with physical self-levitating building blocks. BitDrones is the first step towards creating interactive self-levitating programmable matter - materials capable of changing their 3D shape in a programmable fashion - using swarms of nano quadcopters. The work highlights many possible applications for the new technology, including real-reality 3D modeling, gaming, molecular modeling, medical imaging, robotics, and online information visualization. The Human Media Lab team has created three types of BitDrones. 'PixelDrones' are equipped with one LED and a small dot matrix display. 'ShapeDrones' are augmented with a light-weight mesh and a 3D printed geometric frame, and serve as building blocks for complex 3D models. 'DisplayDrones' are fitted with a curved flexible high resolution touchscreen, a forward-facing video camera, and Android smartphone board. All three types are equipped with reflective markers, allowing them to be individually tracked and positioned in real time via motion capture technology. The system also tracks the user's hand motion and touch, allowing users to manipulate the voxels in space.