Imagine Kinecting an AR.Drone and Balloon Art

It's community project time again for Airigami. We're going to build a big, public display for all to see and it's going to involve a bunch of people. But before going into the project, I'll admit that the title of this post won't mean a lot to those not in the know, so I'll start with a few definitions.

  • Imagine RIT - An annual innovation and creativity festival hosted by the Rochester Institute of Technology that features the work of university students and staff. Now in its fourth year, this year's festival will take place from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday, May 7, 2011.
  • Microsoft Kinect - An add-on product to Microsoft's Xbox gaming system that allows playing of games without the use of traditional controllers (joysticks, trackballs, keyboards). The user plays games though normal body movements and gestures.
  • AR Drone - A small, remote controlled "quadcopter" or flying machine.
  • Balloon - A bag made of a thin, flexible material that can be filled with fluid. The ones we're referring to here are made of latex and filled with air. (If your'e reading this blog, I assume you're familiar with balloons, but who knows. Maybe you found this page while searching for "Kinect" or "AR Drone".)

Last quarter at RIT, Kelly and I took part in the Innovation and Invention class at RIT's Center for Student Innovation. In that class, we hacked a Kinect to fly an AR Drone through an environment built from balloons. There was more to the project than that quick description. (The site describing the full class project is still under construction. I'll update this article and put a link to that here as soon as it's available.) What's important is that we're taking it beyond a small class project and turning it into a public demo at the Imagine RIT festival.

The plan is to build a jungle scene for the human gesture controlled copter to fly through. Those piloting the copter will be able to see the artwork through the AR Drone's onboard camera. We're going to make the scene large enough that people will also be able to walk through it and experience the artwork directly with their own eyes.

Now for the community part. We need help. As Airigami projects go, this is far from one of the largest. It will, however, be one of the most unique and will play to an audience of around 30,000 people. We're looking for RIT students, community members, and just anyone that feels like taking part in helping with the construction, photographing, and filming of what ends up happening. We can use artists, engineers, photographers, you name it. We don't care if you've ever worked with us or have any experience with balloons. We just want to make this fun. If you're interested in volunteering for some period of time during the week of May 2-7, let us know. This isn't a Balloon Manor-sized project. We don't have an infinite amount of space for helpers. We aren't looking for hundreds of people. But we would like a few dedicated folks that want to be part of something cool.

If you want to help, please let us know by filling out our online form.