I admit, that title is pretty absurd. But, it’s also suitable, because this topic is pretty silly too—at least on it’s face. Don’t worry, you’ll understand that quip in a moment. Here’s the gist of it: a team of roboticists from Simon Frasier University in British Columbia have created a means of controlling drones using facial expressions.
Why would they do such a thing? While there is potential for allowing people with physical impairments to fly drones, they say it’s “to enable people to interact with robots and AIs as we now interact with people and trained animals, just as long imagined in science fiction… Finally, and informally, we assert that using the robot in this way is fun, so this interaction could have applications in entertainment.”
We can’t argue with the motivation of just having a good time, so this strange system is fine by us. It works by tracking the pilot’s facial expressions with a camera and computer vision. The drone pilot first calibrates the facial tracker with a neutral expression, and then sets a “trigger” facial expression that is different enough from the blank calibration expression to be detectable.
The drone then launches itself, and begins to follow you like an eager Australian Shepherd waiting for a command. That command is your trigger expression, which sends the drone flying along a predetermined path. This control system isn’t the most practical thing we’ve seen, but is there a downside to finding new and innovative ways to control robots?