Drones can be cool, and drones can be deadly. But can they be Art?
The wizards at Cirque de Soleil have answered that question in the emphatic affirmative with "Sparked," an uncommonly cool piece of video art that incorporates a fleet of autonomous UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles).
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Cirque de Soleil teamed with Swiss university ETH Zürich and Verity Studios to produce the short film, which was shot over the course of three days at the university's Flying Machine Arena. The final product contains no CGI, special effects or wires, according to the production team.
The piece starts with the famous quote from science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Then we see an electrical repairman in a workshop full of floor and table lamps. After an accidental power surge, the lamp shades light up and become animated - flying about the workshop and apparently responding to the repairman's gestures.
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The ten flying lamp shades are, in fact, costumed quadcopter UAV drones. The drones' movements are all preprogrammed, but thanks to the clever man-machine choreography, the lampshades appear to be interacting directly with the astounded repairman.
The project is part of a larger initiative by Cirque de Soleil to explore the use of UAVs and other emerging technologies in the performing arts. You can check out the finished piece below, then see how it was done in the accompanying "Behind the Technology" video. This seems like a promising trajectory for UAV development. Hey drones! Make art, not war!