According to the Pilobolus press release, UP attempts to demonstrate "that groups are more capable than the sum of their parts by giving a group of untrained strangers tricked-out umbrellas and 60 minutes to create something beautiful and moving.”
MIT post-docs Kyle Gilpin '06, MNG '06, PhD '12 and Cagdas Onal, along with Professor Daniela Rus, director of MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), fabricated hand controls so eachparticipant could manipulate the color of his or her umbrella. The "performers" could watch their creation on a screen in real time.
Says Rus, “In our lab we are working on collaborative decision making for robots. The Umbrella Project allows us to explore our theories on collaboration in the context of crowds and to extract hypotheses for future approaches to robot control."
Check out the video. A second performance of UP is currently being planned for Spring 2013 in Boston.
CSAIL's Distributed Robotics Laboratory develops the science of networked autonomous robots. Projects include modular and self-reconfiguring robots, distributed algorithms and systems of self-organizing robots, networks of robots and sensors for first-responders, mobile sensor networks, animals and robots, cooperative underwater robotics, desktop robotics, and forming, moving, and navigating sparse 2D and 3D structures.
Pilobolus seeks to build community by collaborating with diverse artists to create performances using the human body as a medium for expression.
This is the second such collaboration between the Distributed Robotics Lab and Pilobolus. Last year, the two groups created “Seraph,” a dance between two flying robots and a human.