Firefly Eindhoven - Robot Love and GLOW
Initial ideas and concepts
For next year there will be two upcoming events that team Firefly is pursuing to attend. The first event is Robot Love, which has three different themes: Shared Love, Shared Intelligence, and Shared Consciousness. The second and main event for next year is GLOW. The theme of GLOW 2018 is Shadows & Light.
There was a show design for the GLOW theme of last year since team Firefly was already aiming to be at the GLOW event last year. This show design has been used until the TMC event at 19th of April 2018. This show had as main focus the beginning of the universe. The show was build up of multiple parts, like a pendulum motion, planet rotation motion and meteorite motion. These motions were supported by the LED design. This consisted of multiple LED effects.
After that the focus has shifted towards the events of Robot Love and GLOW 2018, which means a new show design was required.
We first looked back at the last design to reflect on it and see what things we would like to change with regard to the new design. We felt like the story that was related to the previous design was not that clear, until we found out on what theme it was based. We wanted to make sure that the idea of this new design was clearer, since we felt like other people watching the show would appreciate it more if they could understand what was going on. Since the time between Robot Love and GLOW is limited, we made the decision to design a show that fits the themes of both events. The themes of Robot Love are really about the interaction between people and technology (especially robots). Therefore we wanted the design to stay close to humans and came to the idea of making the interaction between the drones seem like a human interaction. Examples of this are to make it look like the drones are communicating, chasing each other, or cooperating. These kinds of movements are easily recognized since we use them as humans all the time. Another important change since the last show design is that we are going to implement a light carpet in the show. This is a great opportunity to not only let the drones interact with each other but also with the light carpet. This creates extra opportunities to combine the theme of Shadows & Light (from GLOW) with one or more of the themes from Robot Love. After this reflection of the previous show design, there was a brainstorm session for the new design. From this we selected three concepts to work out in more detail. These concepts are explained in more detail below.
Concept 1: Robot
This concept is based on the theme of Shared Intelligence and Shared Consciousness. As mentioned before people seem to recognize human movements or actions relatively quickly. In this concept we want to play around a bit with that. The story of the design goes as follows. There are three drones which are moving in a robotic fashion, which means quite static and with rigid movements. The impression we want to give is that they are like machines working simultaneously on the same task, without own intentions. After a while, one of the drones leaves this static movement and starts moving around more freely. The drone will be dancing away, doing its own thing. The other drones will stop with what they are doing and turn around to the first drone (as if they don’t understand what the first drone is doing). As the time progresses, the second drone starts dancing as well and eventually the third drone will also follow. This whole design will need a song as well of course. It could be an idea to design this ourselves. This might help us in the distinction between the first more robotic part and the second part which is more free with the music. Or this could be done with the help of a music artist, like we did with our show for the TMC event. Another component that can help to strengthen this idea is to use the LEDs on the drones as well as the light carpet to our advantage of course. Different colours of light on the drones can indicate the different states the drones can be in, ranging from total robot to human. The light carpet could be used this way as well or it could be used to trace the path of the drones, like a shadow. This gives a little touch of the Shadows & Light theme as well. One more thing we could do to emphasize the theme of this concept would be to change the appearance of the drones according to the degree of robot/human. Changing the appearance of the drones is also something we learned will help with telling the story we are trying to tell. By looking at different drone shows created by other artists, we realized that the appearance of the drones can make the story. This is why we want to incorporate this more into our design than just adding LEDs around the drone.
Concept 2: Dancing
The first concept really tells a story. For the second concept we stay a bit closer to the previous show which was a show in which the drones were moving (or dancing) to a certain song. A few different ideas could be used for this concept. To keep the show interesting we could make the drones dance to short parts of different songs. For this it would be nice to use famous songs that also have some famous dance moves which can easily be recognized by people. Another option would be to take one of these famous songs and create our own ‘dance’, which gets interrupted by a famous funny dance (e.g. the macarena). One important thing to think about if you want to let a drone dance is the fact that in most dances, the arms and legs are used to distinguish between different dance moves. One option, again, would be to give the drones a different appearance. Examples of this are to make them look like hats or lampshades. That way it will look like there is some creature underneath the hat/lampshade and then the drone movements can still give the impression of a dancing creature. Another idea would be to arrange the three drones in such a way that one represents the left arm, one represents the head, and the last one represents the right arm. Also for this concept we could use the light carpet as a shadow of the dancing drones. However, we could also make the drones interact with the light carpet. The different lights on the ground can also represent a kind of dance, which might deviate from the dance of the drones. That way we can make the drones react to the dancing on the light carpet, which might make it more lively. This will also make the concept more clear.
One of the things we really want to achieve with the show design is to keep the audience interested, to keep their attention. A way to do this would be to make the show interactive. This might be a bit hard in the first concept, since it is a story being told. However, this is possible for the dance. Options for this would be to let the audience dance along, since we are trying to work with a song that has an easy dance which many people know. Or we could create our own song/dance and let the drones teach this to the audience. For this concept there are still a lot of different scenarios which still need to be narrowed down, but this also gives us a lot of opportunities.
Concept 3: Drawing
The final concept is also focused more on opportunities to let the drones interact with the audience. The idea is to follow the movements of the drones with the light carpet. That way we can let the drones draw different pictures on the light carpet. There are some degrees of freedom in this by using different colors or shapes for the different drones. There are a lot of different ways in which we can let the drones interact with the audience. Examples of this are to let the audience choose the locations where the drone should be moving, the trajectory that the drones should draw, or the colour in which the drones are ‘drawing’. In order to stay close to the theme of Shadows & Light we could choose to let one drone draw in light colours and another one in darker colours. From the Robot Love themes we could apply Shared Intelligence here. The interaction between the drones and the audience really shows the intelligence of the drones which can be combined with the input from the audience. This will create a form of Shared Intelligence. With this option we can also get more then just one person’s shared intelligence, since we have three drones. They could vary in different aspects: colour, pattern, shape, trajectory or something else. The concept of drawing could also be worked out from another angle. We could already have a drawing on the light carpet, and the way that the drones move over it, could affect this. The positive aspect of this concept is, that it will be a different show each time. Making it still enjoyable for the users to watch more than once. It also helps to keep the show innovative and practical, since we could add in more functions each step in our design process.
For the design of the show there are a few important constraints on the technological side of the drones which we need to keep in mind. These limitations are listed below:
- There has to be a distance of at least 1 metre between the different drones. We need to keep this in mind when we try to create a human-like interaction between the drones. They are not able to come really close or even touch each other. Therefore we need to find another way to show the interaction between drones.
- The drones cannot fly above one another. This means we have one less dimension in which the drones can move. They can still move in the y-direction by themselves as long as there is no other drone on their path in the y-direction.
- The drones have to stay at least 1 metre away from the border of the field that we are flying in. This is important to keep in mind when designing the trajectory of the drone and how much space there is to move around.
In order to share our conceptual ideas we have made an animation for each of the three concepts. Since it is a bit hard to show these animations in a paper report we have included some screenshots below. Moreover, we made a post on our website to show the animations we made. This can be viewed at fireflyeindhoven.nl 
Feedback from Robot Love
During our meeting with robot love, we discussed our three ideas. They liked the idea of drones dancing on music but also stated that it would be difficult to do this with trendy pop music. In order to make this look impressive it should really be synchronized with the music which is very hard to do, since the drones can always have a bit of a delay. They instead proposed to do this idea with modern music, which would give us way more freedom. We also showed our idea of robots telling a story but we did not go into depth, since we were focused more on the idea of drawing with drones. They gave us the idea to draw a portrait with drones. This would initially be just one drone, to make the drawing easier. A picture would be taken of a person in the dark. The drone would then draw the portrait with lights at a fast pace, which would be photographed with a long shutter speed. The portrait drawn by the drone, will be blown up to create an artistic photo of two layers. Added to this picture would be our logo and the logo of Robot Love, to brand our creation. This picture could then be taken home by the person, giving us a form of promotion as well.
We are now focusing on the last idea of drawing a portrait with drones. With this idea we want to show people what cool things we can do with drones, namely flying really fast and at the same time make a drawing of your own face. With this concept we do not just show something really cool, but also keep it entertaining for the people visiting us. Another option would be to let the drone draw the whole person in a certain position, since somewhat less detail is needed for that. This might make it easier to realize with the drone. It is quite a change of direction since we will only be focusing on one drone instead of three. Moreover, new tasks will be created, for example for people who can look into the translation of a picture into a trajectory for the drone to fly. The final design will then be created after discussing all ideas with the whole team.