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Robotics Hardware Technology

Tower To Be Built By Flying Robots 58

Zothecula writes with an excerpt from an article in Gizmag: "The FRAC Centre in Orléans, France will for the first time host an exhibition to be built entirely by flying robots. Titled 'Flight Assembled Architecture,' the six meter-high tower will be made up of 1,500 prefabricated polystyrene foam modules. The installation involves a fleet of quadrocopters that are programmed to interact, lift, transport and assemble the final tower, all the time receiving commands wirelessly from a local control room."
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Tower To Be Built By Flying Robots

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  • The flying robots assembled a tower of topless female college cheerleaders.
  • Cost benefit ratio (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:32AM (#38199942) Homepage Journal

    I wonder if it would have been cheaper to make every component a flying robot and just have them assemble themselves.

    • by jcr ( 53032 )

      If you shop around, you can find bricks for less than a dollar each. Quadrocopters are getting cheaper all the time, but they're not that cheap yet.


      • If you make thousands of them the price shouldn't be that far off. Your helicopters now only have to lift themselves, once.

      • If you shop around, you can find bricks for less than a dollar each.

        Yes, but as the article* pointed out, this tower is not made of 99c bricks, but prefabricated polystyrene foam modules. Which could be cheap, but most probably are one-offs that are reasonably expensive to manufacture in the quantities required.

        You need to revisit your cost-benefit ratio if you're basing it around 99c bricks.

        * I know its not fashionable to read the article here on slashdot, but it mentions this right in the summary.

        • by Zocalo ( 252965 )
          More likely, I think, that they have just bought some large polystyrene blocks and cut bricks out of them to the required size using run of the mill polystyrene cutting tools. From the picture in the [] article, the blocks used in the construction look like they are all regularly shaped and sized "bricks", so I doubt that the per brick cost would be all that much, and almost certainly no way near a dollar each.
      • by artor3 ( 1344997 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @05:11AM (#38200070)

        Presumably, you have to pay someone to lay those bricks. If you can make a $2 brick that lays itself, you might start getting close to parity. Not that I think we're there yet, but it is cool to think about.

        • isn't that what the robots are for? instead of paying the bricklayer a wage to support a family, you spend a couple years worth of his pay on these robots, and after a few buildings they pay for themselves. bricklayer gets a new job fixing the robots. or evolution weeds him out. take your pick.
    • by Theophany ( 2519296 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:48AM (#38200000)
      Not only would that be incredibly awesome to watch, but in case of natural disasters the building could pre-emptively disassemble to prevent total destruction. Of course, the building's inhabitants would need to cling to the nearest robot component for dear life whilst being suspended a few hundred feet in the air in the event of such a disaster, but we can worry about that after the video becomes a YouTube sensation.
      • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:55AM (#38200032) Homepage Journal

        I am inspired by the idea of fractal robots. Basically you mass produce robotic building materials and broadcast plans for structures to them. Doors and windows could be created in a building as required by the building materials. As the technology matures the robots may acquire intelligence. I imagine a future where lonely swarms of bricks roam the countryside looking for sleeping homeless humans to build houses around.

        • ...or they could form themselves into a w/c around somebody look particularly desperate in the queue for the iPhone 8 (rough timeframe estimate)!
        • by Penguinshit ( 591885 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @05:21AM (#38200104) Homepage Journal
          or tombs, after Skynet becomes self-aware.
          • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )

            If I only had mod points.... then I'd have to decide between Funny, Insightful, or "EEEEEK!"

        • by Anonymous Coward

          I think that broadcasting is not needed, after all ants and termites can build very efficient structures without the need for a plan, plans are only needed by humans because they don't know better.

          With robotic building material there is no need for a plan, only very simples rules on how to assemble, create empty spaces, openings for light and ventilation.

          Maybe the result would be shocking but I bet that it would be more efficient (thermal isolation, use of natural light) that anything that architect working

        • If we ever intend to do any real orbital or space based manufacturing it will most likely depend on advances and confidence in robotic technologies. A project like the one in the article is just a small step towards that goal. We have already proven we can control robots as far away as Mars for simple exploration. To me the technology involved in actually deploying and directing the Mars rovers has always been more interesting than anything discovered so far.
          • by kryliss ( 72493 )

            What would be even better is if the robots could make the building materials from what is on hand. Instead of sending a $tons of "building materials" to $planet. Have them use the landing craft as materials, cut rock, strip alien monuments etc.....

    • by jovius ( 974690 )

      I think it's sheer stupidity to not have that kind of structure built by humans. I mean come on, six meters and 1500 foam modules. What are we, total imbeciles who cannot built anything taller than Jenga towers?

      • I think it's sheer stupidity to not have that kind of structure built by humans.

        The whole point is to build it with robots.

      • by GNUman ( 155139 )
        I can't figure out if your comment is meant to be funny or are you under the impression that this is something other than an art exhibit?
    • by rikxik ( 1337017 )
      Intelligent bricks:

      brick1: Man, look at that brick chick just out of the kiln.. she's hot! I have a hard-on
      brick2: Stop hitting on her!
      brick1: Look, I'll just fly-over and tell her that I had to lay upon her... I'm smooth like that.
      brick2: Dude, don't be all hot and heavy... you'll be stone-walled.
      brick1: You can't break my resolve (flies away).
      brick2: Sigh.
    • by rwv ( 1636355 )
      One batch of "self-assembling" robot helicopters can assemble one building.
      One batch of "resource aware" robot helicopters can assemble hundreds of buildings.
  • by Statecraftsman ( 718862 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @05:07AM (#38200064) Homepage
    I will totally buy the DVD if they can have this sissy tower repeatedly destroyed by one or more Big Dogs [].
    • Even better if these robots can assembled just as fast, but no faster, than a big dog can knock one down.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... Professor at the Department of Mechanical Engineering at ETH Zürich, creator of the Flying Machine Arena.

  • Isn't this pretty much what happened to that last tower in Final Fantasy 1? And didn't the robots go berserk? I guess people better start investing in magic cubes.
  • It's art (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bradley13 ( 1118935 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @07:12AM (#38200480) Homepage

    On a practical level, so what? The robots are all controlled centrally, by remote control. There's nothing hugely special about the technology.

    The point of this is art. According to TFA, the flight paths will be programmed to produce arcs, circles, etc - i.e., to look pretty. Might be a nifty exhibit to watch.

    • It is []. (no goatse, I promise.)

    • by Xacid ( 560407 )

      Seriously? There's a lot of potential here with this kind of tech being refined.

      Imagine an architecture/engineering firm being able to program and automate the entire construction process with these things. Or build in modular chunks and have them assembled wherever they're delivered.

    • OK, it's art. But when I watch this [], I also see impossibly dense traffic flowing through a city, and I see a perfectly orchestrated army attacking from all sides at once.

      Central control isn't necessarily bad. Yes, people have been enamored for the last 10-15 years with decentralized control and swarming - which is all well and good. But in general decentralized control will NOT reach the efficiency of centralized control. We assume decentralization is better because we're accustomed to the cognitive l

  • aaaaaand we move one step closer to a world where everything is done by machines. What do we do when anything that isn't "art" is doable by (non-human) automotons? The good answer would be "relax and let our robot slaves do everything" but realistically, with our current social, political, and economic systems, soemonwe would own the machines and make all the money while the masses would be left to pursue an ever-diminishing job pool. Name a job that cannot be done by robots and day your
    • by rwv ( 1636355 )

      Name a job that cannot be done by robots and day your answer will be wrong.

      Robots and software cannot sufficiently deal with malicious human actors that are smart enough to manipulate the programming of the robots and software. Give a human an in depth knowledge of an "automated system" and he will be able to subvert it. Sure -- robots that harvest potatoes, slaughter cows, process and transport the products to your local McDonalds, and cook value meals aren't important to subvert for non-malicious actors... but controlling the truly malicious actors requires and demands a human

      • by chill ( 34294 )

        If it decided to just kill off all humans, that would sufficiently deal with your scenario.

      • by HiThere ( 15173 ) <{ten.knilhtrae} {ta} {nsxihselrahc}> on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @01:00PM (#38203670)

        *Today's* Robots and software cannot sufficiently deal with malicious human actors.

        There are lots of jobs that today’s robots and software can't handle. That doesn't tell you much about tomorrow's. Or the day after tomorrow.

        If society doesn't adapt to this, things will get brutal. You want a "Butlerian Jihad"? This is the way to get it. The Luddites weren't being unreasonable, they were fighting to keep the jobs that their survival depended upon. Popular history tells the story the bosses used, but the facts are there if you dig them up.

        Did you ever hear about the riots caused by calendar reform when the Gregorian calendar replaced the Julian calendar in Britain? Guess what those were about. "Give us back our 21 days!" meant that the landlords charged everyone nearly an extra months rent. THAT's what those riots were about. It wasn't people being silly and superstitious, as I was taught in grade school. Whenever you hear of mobs of upset people being "silly and superstious" throughout history, if you check carefully you will usually find that the story has been corrupted, and they were protesting a vile injustice being committed upon them. (They didn't always pick the right target. Scapegoating is common. But they [nearly?] always have an actual injustice that they are protesting.)

        This business of requiring that everyone have a job when the decent jobs are disappearing is a catastrophe waiting to happen.

    • Burn the windmills.

    • Haha, wow! I love the extent to which you've owned the slave identity that consumer culture has thrust upon you. You're the sort that hears about Heaven and decides that he'd rather go to Hell, because there are no jobs in paradise and in Hell you get to climb a mountain of swords on your belly. I can imagine you talking to the demon who's sawing off your legs for the third time this morning: "Sure, climbing the mountain of swords doesn't pay as well as being an executive and the ocean of boiling blood i

  • I knew it. Everyone I knew laughed at my dedicated studies of Minecraft architecture. But now I'm ahead of the curve, and laughing at my naysayers...

    Excuse me, I have to go build a few of those man-lifting, scaled-up hexacopters, and dig up a few thousand cobblestone blocks.

  • will they be limited to 35 hours of work per week each?
  • What could possibly go wrong?

"The number of Unix installations has grown to 10, with more expected." -- The Unix Programmer's Manual, 2nd Edition, June, 1972