Skip to main content

This drone will try to keep its distance if you look annoyed by it

Autonomous blimp detects faces and hand movements
Plenty of people do not understand personal space but at least we can create robots that do. In fact, respect for space is one of the first things programmed into machines like autonomous cars and security bots that move freely around humans.

A team of researchers at The Georgia Institute of Technology is developing an autonomous drone blimp with sensors that help it fly around humans while maintaining an appropriate distance.

“The drone blimp is a perfect platform to move safely in the proximity of human,” Fumin Zhang, a Georgia Tech professor leading research on the blimp, told Digital Trends. “The speed of the blimp is on par with human movement, not too fast. The blimp flies 10 times longer than a quadcopter, which enables extended period of playtime with the human.”

Equipped with sensors and a small camera, the drone blimp is designed to detect hands so people can direct its movement with gestures. The camera also lets it identify facial expressions to determine whether a person is uncomfortable by its hovering about or intrigued by its presence.

“It detects and reacts to a human face to decide the best movement to respect human’s intent, for example, whether the human wants to play with the blimp, or simply wants to be left alone,” Zhang said.

The sensors aren’t perfect yet — the video below shows it float around a bit carelessly — but it is a step in the right direction for respectful robots.

Command GT-MAB via gesture recognition

The ultimate goal of the blimp is to study how people perceive and react to flying drones. However, future versions may find applications outside of the lab, taking the place of tour guides, store clerks, or coworkers.

“The blimp can serve as personal shopping aid in a supermarket or a personal guide in a museum,” Zhang said. “It can easily guide a group or a crowd by flying overhead for a long time. And the blimp can fly in hazardous indoor workspaces to watch over the shoulder of workers when they are performing risky tasks.”

Zhang and his team see real scientific value in their blimps but they would also like a bit of outside recognition, having recently submitted an application to the Guinness World Record for “the world’s smallest autonomous blimp.”

Editors' Recommendations

Dyllan Furness
Dyllan Furness is a freelance writer from Florida. He covers strange science and emerging tech for Digital Trends, focusing…
Don’t buy the Meta Quest Pro for gaming. It’s a metaverse headset first
Meta Quest Pro enables 3D modeling in mixed reality.

Last week’s Meta Connect started off promising on the gaming front. Viewers got release dates for Iron Man VR, an upcoming Quest game that was previously a PS VR exclusive, as well as Among Us VR. Meta, which owns Facebook, also announced that it was acquiring three major VR game studios -- Armature Studio, Camouflaj Team, and Twisted Pixel -- although we don’t know what they’re working on just yet.

Unfortunately, that’s where the Meta Connect's gaming section mostly ended. Besides tiny glimpses and a look into fitness, video games were not the show's focus. Instead, CEO Mark Zuckerberg wanted to focus on what seemed to be his company’s real vision of VR's future, which involves a lot of legs and a lot of work with the Quest Pro, a mixed reality headset that'll cost a whopping $1,500.

Read more
Meet the game-changing pitching robot that can perfectly mimic any human throw
baseball hitter swings and misses

Who’s your favorite baseball pitcher? Shane McClanahan? Sandy Alcantara? Justin Verlander? Whoever you said, two of the top sports-tech companies in the U.S. -- Rapsodo and Trajekt Sports -- have teamed up to build a robot version of them, and the results are reportedly uncannily accurate.

Okay, so we’re not talking about walking-talking-pitching standalone robots, as great a sci-fi-tinged MLB ad as that would be. However, Rapsodo and Trajekt have combined their considerable powers to throw a slew of different technologies at the problem of building a machine that's able to accurately simulate the pitching style of whichever player you want to practice batting against -- and they may just have pulled it off, too.

Read more
The best portable power stations
EcoFlow DELTA 2 on table at campsite for quick charging.

Affordable and efficient portable power is a necessity these days, keeping our electronic devices operational while on the go. But there are literally dozens of options to choose from, making it abundantly difficult to decide which mobile charging solution is best for you. We've sorted through countless portable power options and came up with six of the best portable power stations to keep your smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other gadgets functioning while living off the grid.
The best overall: Jackery Explorer 1000

Jackery has been a mainstay in the portable power market for several years, and today, the company continues to set the standard. With three AC outlets, two USB-A, and two USB-C plugs, you'll have plenty of options for keeping your gadgets charged.

Read more