Fly Away

Gadgets are overwhelmingly concerned with immediacy and functionality, but a production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream at Texas A&M University reminds us that technology, when applied creatively, can be timeless and transcendent.

Amy Hopper, the play's director, cast one autonomous, military-grade flying robot and five smaller remote-control devices as fairies in Shakespeare's comedy. "To see them flying, spinning and bouncing through the air just adds to the magic and mystery of the world Shakespeare created," she explained.

But the drama department isn't the only one interested in the robotic thespians. Researchers in the school's Department of Computer Science and Engineering are studying how the audience reacts to the robots for application in robotic search-and-rescue missions.

"It's now possible for these unmanned aerial vehicles to be used for evacuation or crowd control," explained Robin Murphy, one of the researchers. "But what's missing is an understanding of what makes a person trust or fear the robot." Murphy and others in the department are now poring over the data they collected during the play's run which ended earlier this week. [PopSci and PhysOrg]

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