An MIT Alumni Association Publication

Can Robots Dance?

  • Nancy DuVergne Smith

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Apparently they can.

This summer, MIT-bred quad-rotor flying robots took to the Joyce Theater stage in New York City decked out in dazzling lights. Along with the modern dance company Pilobolus, the quad-rotors told the tale of an unusual friendship between robots and a human in a dance set to a Schubert piano trio. Watch the seven-minute performance, titled Seraph, to share the moment.

Watch the seven-minute performance.

They didn’t seem to suffer from stage fright, although this was certainly not their original mission. They were created to fly in small groups gathering information on whales for marine biologists, snapping surveillance images across tracts of land, and assisting with telecommunication applications

The performance did provoke a bit of anxiety in the quad-rotor’s creator, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) Principal Investigator Daniela Rus:

“One of Rus’ main concerns for the performance was ensuring the success of her group’s robots, which are designed primarily as research platforms, performing live on a professional stage. Most of the group’s robots—while adept at gardening, reconfiguring to adapt to new situations and gathering information underwater—are not developed for commercial uses, let alone a New York City stage. The quad-rotors, however, turned out to be a perfect fit for Pilobolus, due to their speed, agility, and graceful hovering capabilities.”

Find out more about Rus’s work at her Distributed Robotics Laboratory.

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