Flying Automata

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Involution Ocean - an unnatural selection of flying automata for live events.

Download this as a PDF here.


This document imagines the sky as an inverted atmospheric ocean, and the mechanical creatures that could evolve to inhabit its surface.

It imagines the attributes of these creatures, which could be used in visitor events and for historical interpretation.

It also gives:

The visualisation is partly inspired by two sources:

The terms "automata" and "robot" are used to describe the flying creatures in this document, in preference to "drone". There's an explanation of this below.

This document has been produced by The BeeKeepers for the Historic Royal Palaces as part of research into the feasibility of using flying automata. It's written about the legal context of the United Kingdom, but we make reference to the international legal framework in relation to civil aviation and small flying vehicles.

Authors: Tim Concannon, Robert Stone.

Thanks to Andy Broomfield, Shruti Narayanswami, Roz Kaveney, Blay Whitby for input and advice. Last updated June 2015.

Ecology of the involution ocean[edit]

Normally, we think of the sky as being only populated by birds and insects. Bird flight is the product of approximately 160 million years of evolution that has produced creatures with wings, beaks, hollow bones, a streamlined body, a unidirectional pulmonary system which provides the energy needed to sustain flight, and a breast bone with a large keel able to support powerful flight muscles.

Developments in human technology over the last few years - in miniaturised motors, batteries, video sensors and light emitting diodes, and in operating systems and code for handheld devices like mobile phones - have led to the rapid evolution of commercially available, small robots that can fly, hover, relay and broadcast live sound, video and images, carry payloads like a light-projector, or deliver payloads. The latter adaptation has made flying robots of interest to companies like Amazon. [See Delivery drone - Amazon Prime Air demo below].

This document imagines the types of creatures that could evolve out of these technologies and how they could be used theatrically for live events and to interpret historic sites and visitor attractions. This will carry on a long and harmonious relationship between the emergence of new technologies as a form of secular magic act, and of recreation in the sense of "fun" as well as of re-imagining and recreating the world.[1]

The equivalent of a bird would be a highly manoeuvrable robot able to fly, replenish its power and resume flight over thousands of miles. To create a flying creature like this would require the technology in larger robots - usually called "drones" due to their increasing use by military and police - to shrink to a size that makes them affordable to average consumers, and therefore also cost-effective for use by museums, site managers and event organisers.

Aircraft and helicopters, the other objects usually visible to the human eye in the otherwise empty involution ocean, are dumb birds for our purposes: dumb as mechanisms in the sense that they need to be large enough to accommodate a human pilot in order to manoeuvre; there are engineering, logistical and therefore cost considerations as a result. This is one reason why the Red Arrows and civilian helicopters aren't often used as part of visitor attractions. (Much cheaper) hot air balloons, however, are; and have been popular with the general public since their invention in the 18th Century CE. More of which in a moment...

It's worth noting in passing that earlier in the evolution of creatures with flight adaptations on Earth, another kind of flight was more common than it is now: gliding.

It's interesting to consider other forms of locomotion developed for flight in human technology but not common in nature.

  • Guided propulsion systems, rockets, have evolved as adaptations in organisms - particularly for reproduction through pollination - and spermatozoa are akin to guided missiles. As one shot deals, though, rockets have limited use as the basis of locomotion in nature. They're great for live events though, as fireworks.
  • The large amount of energy proportionate to an object's mass required for vectored thrust in the atmosphere - like the aviation systems in Harrier aircraft and the McDonnell Douglas F-15 - have made jet locomotion an evolutionary adaptation limited to organisms in aquatic environments, like squid.

In the involution ocean, geostationary satellites are the equivalent of deep sea creatures.

Creatures of the involution ocean[edit]

The question of cost restricts the kinds of creatures we can imagine and then realise, for now. Therefore we're limited to creatures with two types of locomotion:

  • Creatures that can fly over short distances of a few miles or less ("puddle jumpers") and which can hover and turn, like dragon flies or humming birds.
  • Creatures that drift and "swim", like fish. A small, radio-controlled dirigible would be like a puffer fish.[2]

There's another kind of creature in the involution ocean which would not be a flying object but would be buoyant and hover. The jelly fish would be a balloon tethered to a base with wheels, caterpillar tracks and / or spider legs. Images could be projected on the concave interior of the jelly fish's "head" and also out of its body onto surfaces. [See Sony telepresence blimp below]. The jelly fish would have the versatile utility of the puffer fish - in that it could act as an avatar and guide, as well as being a platform from which to attenuate reality - but would be more stable in terms of the quality of the projection onto surfaces. The jelly fish could remain static whereas the puffer fish would always bob and glide. [Baymax, the 'soft' robot from 'Big Hero 6' is like the jelly fish and the puffer fish: Baymax projects images from its endoskeleton onto the interior of its white vinyl body. Baymax is based on research into 'soft robotics' by Siddharth Sanan at Carnegie Mellon University [3]. See Big Hero 6 trailer below].

The creation of robots attached to small blimps, with locomotion like fish, raises the possibility of developing robot submarines as well. These require hard aquadynamic bodies rather than light, buoyant aerodynamic ones - and would be propelled by rotors - but otherwise they're still "fish" for our purposes. What they're most like in nature is an armoured horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) if they're propelled by tails; and like a nautilus (Nautilus belauensis) if propelled by vectored thrusts from high-powered jets of water and waves of force created by the creature's tentacles.


Recent developments in technology in the last decade have led to the rapid evolution of small robots that can fly.

Two technologies in particular have been decisive:

Other technolgical developments that have assisted this evolution include:

  • Miniaturised motors
  • Miniaturised and increasingly sophisticated video sensors
  • Improvements in Light Emitting Diodes
  • Increasingly sophisticated operating systems for handheld devices like mobile phones and code that operates the robot
  • Lightweight materials, particularly tough plastic used to make rotors and vehicle casings
  • Solenoids, used for mechanisms including rotors, claws and "bomb bays" that can carry and deliver payloads

[See also: A Short History of Quadrocopters].

Cost of implementation[edit]

To construct a puffer fish requires a custom-made balloon. A kit-form 2m balloon - about the size required to carry a 272g Pico Pix Projector indoors, and at roughly head height around 6' from the ground - would cost around £400 + £300 for the projector (and would still need a customised gimbal). The cost of the parts minus the gimbal would be around £700.

A humming bird can be adapted from a commercially available quadcopter. The table below assumes that instead of a camera fitted to a gimbal, each Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUAs) has a 70 Lumens Philips Pico Pix PPX3407 Projector attached by a custom-made bracket. At 272 g, the Pico Pix PPX3407 is at the limit of the payload these SUAs can carry without having difficulty taking off, etc.

Humming bird
Model Features Battery life (with no payload) Operating range £ (approx) £ (approx) with Pico Pix projector @ £300
DJI Phantom 2DJI Phantom 2
  • DJI Phantom 2 manual
  • Specs
  • Max Ascent Speed: 6m/s
    Max Ascent Descent: 2m/s
  • Max Flight Speed: 15m/s
  • Requires additional stabilisation gimbal or bracket to carry camera, projector etc.
  • Firmware update includes No Fly Zones
  • Return To Home and One Key Go Home features ensure SUA returns to its take-off GPS co-ordinates.
  • iPad 16 waypoint Ground Station app allows for tap and go route planning, includes preset No Fly Zones near major airports etc, with 8km exclusion radius.
  • Not as fast at take-off or landing as Blade 350 QX2. Equally as agile but more stable in flight and easier to fly (the Blade loses throttle and needs to be adjusted constantly) so better as a Moviedrone.[5].
  • Less prone to Radio Frequency Interference than the Blade 350 QX2 (its nearest similar competitor), the Phantom 2's internal circuitry is also better shielded.
25 mins 600m £430 £730
link= Parrot BeBop DroneParrot BeBop Drone
  • Parrot BeBop Drone manuals
  • Specs
  • Max Ascent Speed: 5.7m/s
    Max Descent Speed: 2m/s
  • Max Flight Speed: 11.11m/s
  • Built in camera, this would have to be disabled to get round privacy concerns. No mounts for projector bracket, it would need to be secured with straps or custom mount.
  • Tablet operated, controls are imprecise but there's an optional £300 Skycontroller handheld transmitter.
  • Return Home feature ensures SUA returns to its take-off GPS co-ordinates.
  • Freeflight 3 app includes tap and go route planning.
  • Not as fast, agile or stable in flight as the DJI Phantom 2, Blade 350QX, but easier to fly from tablet app. Short battery life. Mainly designed as a flying camera.
  • Less prone to Radio Frequency Interference than Blade; unlike the DJI Phantom 2, the Parrot BeBop 2 has dual-band Wi-Fi antennas that allow it to handle both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz MIMO frequencies. It also generates its own Wi-Fi 802.11 network. This allows you to select the frequency of your choice.
11 mins 30m
[2km with optional £300 Sky Controller]
£385 £685
link= Blade 350 QX2Blade 350 QX2
  • Blade 350 QX2 manual
  • Specs
  • [Smart Mode]
    Max Ascent Speed: 2m/s

    Max Descent Speed: 2m/s
    [Stability Mode + Pressure sensor]
    Max Ascent Speed: 3m/s

    Max Descent Speed: 3m/s
  • Max Flight Speed: 25m/s
  • Features an isolation mount for a GoPro 3 series camera which can be adapted for a Pico Pix Projector with a custom bracket.
  • Return Home feature on controller ensures SUA returns to its take-off GPS co-ordinates.
  • Safe Circle [in Safe Mode] provides 9m diameter No FLy Zone round pilot to prevent collision.
  • Problems with Radio Frequency Interference with the GPS from outside sources or from a Go Pro camera if attached.
16 mins 1km £280.00 £580
link= Walkera QR X350 ProWalkera QR X350 Pro
  • Walkera QR X350 Pro manual
  • Specs
  • Max Ascent Speed: 4m/s
    Max Descent Speed: 2m/s
  • Max Flight Speed: 10.20m/s
  • Features an isolation mount for a GoPro 3 series camera which can be adapted for a Pico Pix Projector with a custom bracket.
  • Come Home feature on controller ensures SUA returns to its take-off GPS co-ordinates.
  • Firmware uses arducopter APM Mission Planner which allows for setting autonomous waypoint flights.
  • Designed to compete with the DJI Phantom 2, the Walkera QR X350 Pro is £150+ cheaper and there are inevitable trade-offs: a steeper learning curve in order to learn to fly it; numerous reports of the X350 Pro going AWOL or crashing, mostly due to a problem with the Low Voltage Cutoff (LVC) designed to stop the battery from over-discharging, and with a bodged implementation of APM Mission Planner causing crashes. [See this review]
25 mins 300m £275.00 £575
link= AR.Drone Parrot 2.0 Elite EditionAR.Drone Parrot 2.0 Elite Edition
  • AR.Drone Parrot 2.0 Elite Edition manuals
  • Max Ascent Speed: 2m/s
    Max Descent Speed: 2m/s
  • Max Flight Speed: 5m/s
  • Built in camera, this would have to be disabled to get round privacy concerns. No mounts for projector bracket, it would need to be secured with straps or custom mount.
  • Optional extra Flight Recorder gives Return Home, tap and go route planning, 3D modelling of flight.
  • Tablet operated and guided by wifi rather than radio, AR.Drone Parrot 2.0's controls are imprecise. Considerably cheaper than other options but less versatile as a result.
12 mins 300m £265 £565

Current technology & implementations[edit]

Description Remarks

Helicopter with projector1. Helicopter with projector

This clip shows why the hummingbird may be more useful to create film of projected images - in dramatic situations or on hard-to-get-to places (like on the face of Big Ben, say) - than for close-up vistor experiences and public events.

The custom-made SUA is loud. It's possible that noise cancellation could eliminate a lot of this sound. The rotors of a vehicle - of the size necessary to throw an image far enough to be seen by a crowd standing more than 50m away - would break most suspension of disbelief in a projected image. [See UK Legal and safety considerations below] .

‘Projector Drone’ shows sky no longer the limit for video projection.2. 'Projector Drone' shows sky no longer the limit for video projection.

Another loud experimental SUA, in this case an octocopter with a slightly more powerful projector than 70 Lumens. The image is very stable with 8 rotors.

Projector drone - the future of advertising3. Projector drone - the future of advertising

An Australian firm came up with a 500 lumens projector hexacopter.

Sony telepresence blimp 4. Sony telepresence blimp

This blimp is very close to the puffer fish and jelly fish concepts. It would need to be bigger to carry a projector that could throw a beam at a surface as well as at the concave interior of the balloon.

Air Swimmers Shark - Jaws - RC Blimp 5. Air Swimmers Shark - Jaws - RC Blimp

Air swimmers are close to the puffer fish: to carry a 270g projector requires a cylindrical balloon 50cm diameter, 1.5m long; or an elipsoid 50cm diameter, 1.7m long.

Animated inflatables 6. Animated inflatables

The blimp at 1:35 suggests some of the possibilities of internal illumination of radio-controlled balloons.

Delivery drone - Amazon Prime Air demo 7. Delivery drone - Amazon Prime Air demo

Note the payload for this service - based on the SUA - is going to be no more than 300g. The landing and take off are smooth: maybe it's a service aimed at people with patios?

Oculus FPV - a fully immersive live view from a DJI Phantom 2 8. Oculus FPV - a fully immersive live view from a DJI Phantom 2

Oculus heads-up display linked to the Phantom: the wearer moves their head, the SUA moves in synchronistion with the viewer's line of sight.

The possibility of this is to create remote, augmented reality and virtual reality experiences (for example, flying along the River Thames from Tower Bridge and seeing an onion-skin view of a Frost Fair. [See Future technologies below].

Raffaello D'Andrea: The astounding athletic power of quadcopters 9. Raffaello D'Andrea: The astounding athletic power of quadcopters

This display shows how incredibly stable and versatile quadcopters are.

Shotgun vs Drone Airframe - UAV Torture Test by Game of Drones 10. Shotgun vs Drone Airframe - UAV Torture Test by Game of Drones

This video demonstrates how resilient quadcopters can be too.

Baymax from Big hero 6 meet and greet at Epcot in Walt Disney World 11. Baymax from Big hero 6 meet and greet at Epcot in Walt Disney World

Baymax, the robot in Big Hero 6, is close to the puffer fish, including because he's an inflated vinyl robot with an interior projector fixed to his endoskeleton.

Baymax is based on research by Siddharth Sanan at Carnegie Mellon University. The imaginary city of San Fransokyo is decorated with colourful robot fish balloons which are also similar to the puffer fish aesthetically.

SmartChutes - Autonomous Quadcopter Parachute Recovery System 12. SmartChutes - Autonomous Quadcopter Parachute Recovery System

SmartChutes, Michael Pick's project to address the issue of £500+ of electronics crashing to Earth or into people.

UK Legal and safety considerations[edit]

The basic rules of the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for piloting all Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUAs) - anything under 20kg, which includes small copters[6] - are that you can use the model aircraft out-of-the-box, so long as:

  • It's flown within the pilot's line of sight (remote viewing over a video link to a camera on the vehicle doesn't count, you have to able to see it) and

  • It doesn't capture images or video by flying close to buildings and people
  • It doesn't fly within 50m of buildings and people
  • It doesn't fly over congested areas and crowds closer than 150m
  • It isn't a commercial flight

You can't do any of these without CAA 'permission'. The CAA stresses that obtaining this permission is a matter of "paperwork" not a "license". They don't want to stop people from using SUAs; the CAA wants people to use them safely and in a responsible, intelligent way. The number of complaints about "drones", though rising, is still only in double figures each year. Due to the fear linked to the technology there are numerous reports about privacy and safety concerns, especially in the remaining local news papers and also on technology news websites, because drone technology - like any death tech in human history - is sexy. However, this is equivalent to the obsession of local papers in rural areas with the dangers to cattle and crops from "Chinese fire lanterns". The actual risks to the public are small, and out of proportion with the amount of negative attention given to the perceived risks by journalists.

The position is summarised well in this Wired article:

Drones that are under 20kg can fly in normal airspace for private use so long as the operator isn't planning to use data or images from the flight acquired by flying close to people or objects. UAVs have to remain 150m from congested events or large assemblies, 50m from a person or building, and within line of sight, which is 500m horizontally and 400ft (122m) vertically. Flights beyond this can be permitted but the operators need to show they can fly the plane safely. Live-streaming from the UAV to the pilot is not considered a good enough measure by the CAA to allow drones to be flown beyond line of sight.

Anyone who is using a drone under 20kg for commercial purposes has to be licensed to ensure that they are sufficiently trained to fly the plane and have the appropriate insurance in place.

[The CAA's] Richard Taylor, though, balks at the word "licence" and instead prefers "permission", as it is not really as "complicated as a licensing process and it's just about making sure the paperwork is in place".

Mark Piesing, 20th February 2014 'The legal turbulence hindering drones in the UK' Wired, London.[7]

Data protection and privacy[edit]

If you're using a flying camera to record images and video, in addition to insurance and showing that a SUA pilot is adequately trained, the Information Commissioner's Office recommend the following:

  • Get to know your camera first
  • Plan your flight [especially with regard to battery time]
  • Let people know before you start recording
  • Consider your surroundings
  • Keep yourself and your drone in view
  • Keep the images safe [this raises particular problems with livestreaming into the public commons of the internet: how do you know who's watching and whether they're recording the video feed?]
  • Avoid blanket capture - of lots of images, lots of people - without strong justification
  • Commercial uses especially should be limited to recording images from a specific area; no "fishing expeditions" next door
  • Consider "fair processing". How does a member of the public know their image is being recorded, so they can opt out? One solution many SUA pilots have adopted is to wear high visibility clothing.[8]

  • [NoFlyZone is aiming to create a global database of properties that want to be left out of SUA flight routes. However, DJI - which accounts for most 'drone' sales - isn't a partner currently.[9]]

Safety considerations[edit]

  • Options for protecting the SUA from crashing into water or falling out of the sky would include deploying a SmartChute and the on-board No Fly Zone software: Groundstation on the DJI Phantom and Freeflight on Parrots.
  • There are no commercially available encapsulations for rain-proofing and water landings yet; but a waterproof, transparent inflatable bubble for the projector wouldn't be all that costly to make.
  • Another concern is losing the SUA. One answer may be to find combinations of RFID tag with the SUA that won't cause radio and wifi interference. 433MHz RFID tags have a range of up to 500m.

Key documents[edit]

Aviation terminology[edit]

Many terms for 'drones' are used interchangeably. This has created great confusion and the sense that you can buy a military-grade weapon from Maplin and fly it over your neighbour's garden, out-of-the-box.

This isn't the case, and it compounds the sense that flying robots are a death technology. In fact, the legislation covering quadcopters and similar devices also covers model aircraft and helicopters, which have been around for decades. The main difference - and the issue which causes the most concerns - is the attachment of cameras to unmanned flying vehicles.

We think the terms "automata" and "robot" are preferable to 'drone' in describing the flying creatures imagined in this document. [See below].

To clarify, the following terms and acronyms are best defined these ways:

From Border and Washbourne, 'Civilian Drones' Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, Westminster UK:

  • UAs: "Unmanned Aircraft are reusable, aerodynamic flying systems that can be remotely piloted via a joystick or digital interface supported by different levels of automatic control." [10]
  • Small UA or SUA: 20 kg or less, are regulated at the national level by the UK CAA. Legislation for operators "makes some distinction between 0 to 7 kg and over 7 to 20 kg [...] UK law states that that UA over 7 kg should not be routinely flown: in controlled airspace (e.g. around airports), except with the permission of an air traffic control (ATC) unit; in any aerodrome traffic zone except with the permission of ATC or the person in charge of the aerodrome; at a height exceeding 400 ft above the surface."[11] [To compare, the DJI Phantom 2 is 1kg and would be around 1.35kg if adapted to humming bird mode. So well within the safety limit for use in airspace before needing to notify air traffic control].
  • Light UA: over 20 kg to 150 kg "are also licensed at national level (CAA); however, regulation is stricter than small UA because of an increased potential for harm should an accident occur."[12] Their flight time and payload capabilities fall between small and large UA.
  • Large UA: over 150 kg "are licensed at the European level by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), with stricter regulation than small or light UA. They are generally powered by internal combustion engines, with a flight time of 16 hours or more [...] There is one large UA in use in the UK, Watchkeeper, operated by the Ministry of Defence since March 2014, which is designed to be used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance." [13]

The terms UAV, UAS, RPA and RPAS are all used interchangeably.

  • UAV: Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
  • UAS: Unmanned Aircraft Systems - this term describes the whole system supporting the vehicle and its automatic controls. This can include control stations and data links (like wifi and radio transmitters).
  • RPA: Remotely Piloted Aircraft
  • RPAS: Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems - again, this term describes the whole system supporting the vehicle and its automatic controls, including control stations and data links.

Some of the confusion stems from the fact that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) uses "RPA" and "RPAS" to talk about 'drones' of all sizes, whereas UK legislators and the UK CAA - which are tending to take a lead in framing international and other domestic legal responses to developments in UA technology - use "UA", "UAV" and "UAS".

The distinction between "Unmanned Aerial Vehicle" and "Remotely Piloted Aircraft" is a semantic one, but important because it relates to the degree of automation and agency latent in vehicles and their control systems without the need for intervention of a human pilot. In this sense the language the ICAO uses is lagging behind the reality of aviation systems that weigh less than a few kilos, but should their software or other systems fail - as appears to be the case with the implementation of APM Mission Planner in the Walkera QR X350 Pro, for example - a collision with a light aircraft could nonetheless cause a serious accident and loss of life.

A 'drone' in the common sense the term is used is a light or large UA: anything over 20 kg, so large enough to carry weapons, sophisticated surveillance equipment; and to be a significant danger to the public due to the high probability of fatality and extensive damage property if it flew into or landed on them. For the purposes of this document, a 1kg flying robot with a 270g projector attached is a SUA rather than a 'drone'.

Legal framework[edit]



  • Rules of the Air Regulations (RoA) 2007 encompasses general flight rules and guidance for aerodrome traffic. SUAs are specifically exempt from RoA 2007, by which the person flying the SUA is responsible for flight safety.

There have been several recent UK Parliamentary reports on 'drones', including civilian uses for SUAs under 7kg:

Best practice and professional bodies[edit]

  • Ben Lovegrove has proposed a code of conduct for civilian UAV pilots to fill in some of the gaps that exist in UK Law at present.
  • UAE Drones for Good Award: "The UAE Government invite the most innovative and creative minds to find solutions that will improve people's lives and provide positive technological solutions to modern day issues." [14]

Aesthetics of the involution ocean[edit]

'Monique's disk-shaped plastic foot had ridges on the bottom, piezoplastic imipolex ridges that could ripplingly glide Monique across level surfaces. For more rapid progress or on an irregular terrain, Monique could hop. If the utmost speed was called for, she could flip her body out of the "chess man" mode and go over into another of her body's stable attractor patterns, a mode in which she could fly. In this alternate "pelican" mode, Monique became a set of great flapping wings attached to a tapered big-eyed body resembling the brown pelicans who dive for fish along the Santa Cruz coast.

Monique's tissues had at least three other basic attractor modes as well: the spread-out "puddle" shape she used for soaking up sun, the seagoing "shark" shape, and the rarely used "rocket" shape that moldies could use to fly back and forth between the Earth and the Moon, not that a moldie like Monique had any desire to go to the Moon with its fanatic loonie moldies.'

Rudy Rucker, 1997 'The Ware Tetralogy: Freeware'.[15]

Automata terminology[edit]

"Automata" and "robot" are used to describe the flying creatures in this document in preference to "drone" for two reasons:

  • Strictly speaking, what we're discussing are model aircraft and SUAs. "Drone" has become synonymous with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles over 20kg, but UK legislation treats anything under 20kg differently from a true 'drone'. [See Aviation terminology].
  • In contemporary usage, "drone" has a connotation with death which is opposed to the aims of this document.

Our intention of is to create an inverted ocean teeming with new life. By the playful interaction of its inhabitants, the rippling surface of the involution ocean will be warped in eddies, suddenly-emerging whirlpools of imagery and ideas. The inverted sea surface would act as a fun-house distorting mirror, reflecting and bending the reality of the world below to reveal invisible structures and hidden meanings.[16]

Rosalind Williams makes this observation in 'Notes on the Underground: An Essay on Technology, Society, and the Imagination':[17]

'In 'Technics and Civilisation', while discussing the mine as a model of the inorganic environment, Lewis Mumford suggests that it also serves as a model for the modern scientific worldview:

It is a dark, a colourless, a tasteless, a perfumeless, as well as a shapeless world: the leaden landscape of a perpetual winter. The masses and lumps of the ore itself, matter in its least organised form, complete the picture. The mine is nothing less in fact that the concrete model of the conceptual world which was built up by physicists of the seventeenth century..?

The question Mumford raises here touch upon a mighty theme: the disenchantment of the world (Max Weber's famous phrase), or, even bolder, the death of nature (the title of a book by Carolyn Merchant). According to their common analysis, once nature is subjected to scientific rationalism it ceases to be a vital source of human meaning and becomes a matter of fact rather than a matter of value. Modern science views nature as colourless, shapeless, and devoid of any symbolic aura or spiritual significance - not a living world, but a dead mine.'

"Drone" distils everything about science and technology that Mumford, Weber and Merchant could regard as being alien to life, and due to the baleful influence of the European Enlightenment and rationalism. A drone is a soulless mechanism, a soldier ant. It's a replaceable, interchangeable part of a hive mind. It's something without its own agency or will.

Flying policemen in François Truffaut's dystopian 'Fahrenheit 451' based on Ray Bradbury's novel
Flying policemen in François Truffaut's dystopian 'Fahrenheit 451' based on Ray Bradbury's novel.

Through the implementation of drones by the US military, the language used to talk about flying robots - the term "drone" itself - has made the technology interchangeable in the popular imagination with mindless angels of death. There is a palpable aura of dread around the word "drone". People shudder slightly, the air stiffens when you mention them. Drones have become an emblematic death technology, as nuclear missiles were in the 1970s and 1980s and mythical "dirty bombs" were a decade ago. Predator drones are one weapon used in precrime policing of international trouble spots. They're dead things that turn living people into inanimate lumps of meat, on the basis of meta-data, patterns of behaviour and association, without evidence of actual wrongdoing. Drones are used to simplify people to patterns: everything is reduced to its simplest, most basic corporeal form by them.

Natural philosophy[edit]

In an earlier era of industrial design in the 1930s, the influence of research into aerodynamics sometimes became conflated with the language of another simplifying set of theories: eugenics. A term like "parasitic drag"[18] had a political and sociological connotation as much as an engineering one. The direction in which the technology of robotics in flight has been taken for military clients - to make things less animated and alive, to reduce the complex to the simple - is at odds with the other of two parallel impulses driving scientific exploration in the Eighteenth century.

One impulse could be said to be embodied by Isaac Newton: which was to find the rules and underlying axioms governing the physical Universe. Taken to excess this could be seen as a reductive mania. (For example, where mathematical proofs have become sufficient evidence of the existence of parallel universes to satisfy professional scientific opinion, when there's no experimental data to prove that they exist).

Hooke's drawing of a grey dronefly from 'Micrographia'.

Another impulse, however, could be said to be embodied by his peer Robert Hooke, with whom Newton famously fell out. Hooke - an engineer, curator of experiments of the Royal Society and resident showman - sought to understand nature by observation and experiment first, and by mathematical formulae and axioms second. Through the development of lenses, microscopes and telescopes, Hooke was able to see more of the Universe that his unaided eye could perceive: distant stars, the structures of fleas and fabric in intense detail beyond the scope of normal vision. Hooke was inclined to see how things are in practice and not solely how they must be in principle.

This inquiry imbued matter with qualities of life and animation rather than taking them away, because it revealed that living things operate by the same rules that are also the fundamental laws of the cosmos: human beings, and all living things, are mechanisms. Mechanisms are an extension of our skill and agency. As an extension of us they are part of a common humanity.

In Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein' the scientist ascends Mont Blanc and there is confronted by the huge figure of his creation, bounding toward him through the ice and mist:

'Be calm! I entreat you to hear me before you give vent to your hatred on my devoted head. Have I not suffered enough, that you seek to increase my misery? Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it. Remember, thou hast made me more powerful than thyself; my height is superior to thine, my joints more supple. But I will not be tempted to set myself in opposition to thee. I am thy creature, and I will be even mild and docile to my natural lord and king if thou wilt also perform thy part, the which thou owest me. Oh, Frankenstein, be not equitable to every other and trample upon me alone, to whom thy justice, and even thy clemency and affection, is most due. Remember that I am thy creature;

I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed. Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous.'

Mary Shelley, 1818 'Frankenstein' [19]

The Machine, a sentient AI, in the CBS TV series 'Person of Interest' self-reboots. From the episode 'If-Then-Else'.

George Dyson has this to say on the future of machine intelligence in his overview of its history and evolution to date:

'The past is where we find answers to our questions: Who are we, and why? The future is where we see questions to which the answers are up to us.

Do we remain one species, or diverge into many?

Do we remain of many minds, or merge into one?'

George Dyson, 1998 'Darwin Among the Machines: The Evolution of Global Intelligence'[20]

From a review of Dyson's book:

'Dyson's main claim is that the evolution of a conscious mind from today's technology is inevitable. It is not clear whether this will be a single mind or multiple minds, how smart that mind would be, and even if we will be able to communicate with it. He also clearly suggests that there are forms of intelligence on Earth that we are currently unable to understand. From the book: "What mind, if any, will become apprehensive of the great coiling of ideas now under way is not a meaningless question, but it is still too early in the game to expect an answer that is meaningful to us."'[21]

The evolution of machine intelligence may not produce thinking mechanisms that are recognisable to us as sentient, or at least not immediately. The familiar Science Fiction trope from the Terminator films of a "robot uprising", when an Artificial Intelligence becomes self-aware and decides to destroy the human race, assumes that AIs would observe us rivals. There's no reason to believe they'd see humans as being any more or any less important in the scheme of things than any other naturally occuring phenomenon. As an extension of our skill and agency, the creatures of the Involution Ocean will be no more malign or benign than humanity's spirit of enquiry.

Immersion and reality as 'thick text'[edit]

'Thick text' is a term coined by Roz Kaveney to explain how a viewer of 'Star Wars', new 'Star Trek', 'Alien' or Spiderman films may appreciate references, not only to other films in the franchise but to a genre and popular culture more widely.

'The precondition of reading or recognising a thick text is that we accept that all texts are not only a product of the creative process but contain all the stages of that process within them like scars or vestigial organs.'[22]

'Thick text' is more useful for the purposes of this discussion than a similar one from critical theory like 'intertextuality'. It better describes what happens when you link a bubble reality inside an authored frame to the outside world of shared experiences. This is the way in which by creating motion pictures without borders, when viewing a recorded visual narrative in different settings - showing a film of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' in a forest, or 'The Tempest' in the location where the Elizabethan theatre in which it was first performed once stood - the film could become even more of a conspiracy between the audience and the film-maker than in a purpose-built cinema.

The postmodern idea of 'intertextuality' tends to be about relationships of texts and language to one another without the necessary mediation of authors, or of readers as authors. 'Thick text' more accurately describes the relationships between readers, viewers and fans to imaginary realities, when an audience can be literate not only in terms of textual references to other films, books or historic events but to their broader contexts as well, implied, unconscious or literal.

Imagine a 'ghost walk' experience at Kensington Palace, showing a film with subliminal associations with the site like Jean Cocteau's 'La Belle et La Bête' or George Franju's 'Les Yeux Sans Visage'. Individual scenes could be projected in different spaces in near-dark conditions using a black or transparent puffer fish balloon, moving the audience around the building like the Stations of the Cross. At the end, the public would leave the building with the lights turned on. They would see everything that they imagined as being in the Palace, but based on outlines and vague impressions, revealed finally in more vivid clarity.

George Franju's 'Les Yeux Sans Visage'.
George Franju's 'Les Yeux Sans Visage'.

Anyone watching Jean Cocteau's 'La Belle et La Bête' in this way inside Kensington Palace would get the reference automatically even if they hadn't seen the film before. Moving the film around the building, scene by scene, moves the audience around just as Belle is wandering alone inside the Beast's castle.

This kind of experience allows for the possibility of unlocking the atmosphere, the site as it exists in the imaginations of many visitors – reality as a 'thick text' – rather than as an authored historical document. (This is partly the excitement and mystery that museum sleepovers are tapping into: what do you see in a museum when you stop reading the text in the cases? What does the audience perceive in the shadows in the corners, in the fabric of the building, in the history trapped in the dust beneath the exhibits?)

Accessing the intersection between time and space - location - and the imagination, memory, senses and intuitive responses of the audience creates suspension of disbelief in the moment. The spectator is immersed between permeable onion-skin layers of meaning. This echoes Artaud's ideas about creating a multimedia, multi-sensory "poetry of space" in theatre:

'Practically speaking, we want to bring back the idea of Total Theatre, where theatre will recapture from cinema, music-hall, the circus and life itself, those things that always belonged to it. This division between analytical theatre and a world of movement seems stupid to us. One cannot separate body and mind, nor the senses from the intellect, particularly in a field where the unendingly repeated jading of our organs calls for sudden shocks to revive our understanding. Abandoning our Western ideas of speech, it turns words into incantation. It expands the voice. It uses vocal vibrations and qualities, wildly trampling them underfoot. It pile-drives sounds. It aims to exult, to benumb, to bewitch, to arrest our sensibility. It liberates a new lyricism of gestures which because it is distilled and spatially amplified, ends by surpassing the lyricism of words. Finally it breaks away from language's intellectual subjugation by conveying a sense of the new, deeper intellectualism hidden under these gestures and signs and raised to the dignity of special exorcisms.'[23]

To extend this idea of the world as a thick text, in 'Narrative as Virtual Reality' Marie-Laure Ryan offers this analysis of the vertical relationships of meaning in "the world as text". She counterposes this idea with the pre-existing, academic and post-structuralist conception of signification as a set of horizontal relationships of meaning within and between language systems:

'For the purpose of immersive poetics, a crucial implication of the concept of the textual world concerns the function of language. In the metaphor of the text as world, the text is apprehended as the window on something that exists outside language and extends in time and space well beyond the window frame. To speak of a textual world means to draw a distinction between a realm of language, made of names, definite descriptions, sentences, and propositions, and an extra linguistic realm of characters, objects and facts, and states of affairs serving as references to the linguistic expressions [… ] The world metaphor thus entails a referential or "vertical" conception of meaning that stands in stark contrast to the Saussarian and poststructuralist view of signification as the product of a network of horizontal relations between the terms of a language system. In this vertical conception, language is meant to be traversed toward its referents. Sven Birkerts describes this attitude as follows: "When we are reading a novel we don't, obviously, recall the preceding sentences and paragraphs. In fact we generally don't remember the language at all, unless it's dialogue. For reading is a conversion, a turning of codes into contents"'.[24]

Automata and puppetry[edit]

Roz Kaveney's concept of "thick text" as applied to culturally literate fandom - of comics, games, SFF literature and film appreciation - could also apply to 'crossing over the silk rope', to walking over an imaginative threshold into a theatrical vignette framed by waking reality. Using Ryan's distinction between experience mediated by a set of horizontal relationships between texts and language systems, and experience mediated by vertical relationships of extralinguistic associations and memories: "thick text" is a better way than "intertextuality" to explain why Dennis Severs' house at 18 Folgate Street, London remains a magical experience for the public long after his death; whereas the animatronic Abraham Lincoln at Disney World is a byword for creepy museum exhibits.

Animatronic Abraham Lincoln at Disney World
Animatronic Abraham Lincoln at Disney World.

The House That Wouldn't Die
The House That Wouldn't Die.

One way of looking at the animatronic Abe is to say he seems creepy because there's a language of life, a "text" of organic animation, and as living beings we can read a set of signs of to intuit that he's a simulacrum not an animate, living being. Most theories seeking to explain the "uncanny valley", the phenomenon of humanlike robots often seeming more like moving corpses than living things, revolve around this idea of immanent signals and codes that humans as sentient life can read, but which the design of "lifelike" animatronic mechanisms often fail to mimic effectively.

But this can't be true because Kermit, R2D2 and Captain Scarlet aren't alive either and yet we buy into them as "real" characters. Another argument would be to say that due to Kermit and R2 having human puppeteers animating them, and due to them speaking with human voices or bleeps and bloops that approximate human speech, we read past their inorganic properties to the organic reality of their characters in performance. Again, it could be said we would be reading a "language of life" into Emo and Kermit, in that there are pre-existent signs which can be read as signifying organic and sentient life, as opposed to inauthentic approximations of it.

There is a lot to this argument, as rapid improvements in performance capture technology have demonstrated in the film industry (most recently, in 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' where Mark Ruffalo's facial expressions were captured convincingly to create an emotionally affecting performance from the CGI Hulk). However, in the case of animatronic Abe it's not only that we look at an animatronic puppet and can see its gears working. We look at the old fashioned paintings projected on the stage before the curtains are drawn to reveal Abe. We look at it as a museum exhibit of an exhibit, a relic of Disney World in the Sixties when Uncle Walt was around. We remember Westword and creepy Youtube clips of Japanese dolls. For the illusion to work the fabricators of immersive experiences must be aware of the audience's literacy of all the other depictions and iterations of similar bubble realities. It's a short journey from Chuck E. Cheese to Chucky.

Writing about what made humans authentic and about the nature of reality, the SF author Philip K Dick had this to say about Disney Land, which was near to where he lived:

'My two topics are really one topic; they unite at this point. Fake realities will create fake humans. Or, fake humans will generate fake realities and then sell them to other humans, turning them, eventually, into forgeries of themselves. So we wind up with fake humans inventing fake realities and then peddling them to other fake humans. It is just a very large version of Disneyland. You can have the Pirate Ride or the Lincoln Simulacrum or Mr. Toad's Wild Ride—you can have all of them, but none is true. In my writing I got so interested in fakes that I finally came up with the concept of fake fakes. For example, in Disneyland there are fake birds worked by electric motors which emit caws and shrieks as you pass by them. Suppose some night all of us sneaked into the park with real birds and substituted them for the artificial ones. Imagine the horror the Disneyland officials would feel when they discovered the cruel hoax. Real birds! And perhaps someday even real hippos and lions. Consternation. The park being cunningly transmuted from the unreal to the real, by sinister forces. For instance, suppose the Matterhorn turned into a genuine snow-covered mountain? What if the entire place, by a miracle of God's power and wisdom, was changed, in a moment, in the blink of an eye, into something incorruptible? They would have to close down.'[25]

What Philip Dick is pointing to is that on some level all of us can "hear" or "read" the emergent voice of an author of reality, and that in simulating that reality an author or designer of a fake reality must aspire to a create a "fake fake" that resonates with that voice of authorship, those emergent properties of reality. In many ways that voice is our own, but transposed to an imaginary "third person" (William Burroughs thought of there being an imaginary third person in the room when he collaborated with other writers). Being a reader, viewer, member of an audience is to be in collaboration with the author, artist, director of the piece.

Dennis' house is full of inauthentic features that horrify traditionalists of the National Trust school. There are contemporary brass candle sticks on the mantelpieces, not 18th Century ones. A plaster relief on a ceiling is made from plastic fruit that Dennis bought in Brick Lane market. However, as a piece of performance it holds together as a "fake fake", mainly because of Dennis acting as the narrator, sole inhabitant and spirit of the house. Even after Dennis Sever's death it remains Dennis's House because his presence defines the collection as more than a cabinet of curiosities but as a theatrical spectacle.

(In this sense Dennis's house is similar to what the academic Simon During refers to as "magical assemblage" to describe the "show and tell" aspect of everything from the 'Haddock's Androids' shop on Norfolk Street, London[26] to carnival sideshows of bottled mermaids to Athanasius Kircher's musuem in Rome, the Lyceum, the Great Room, Egyptian Hall and Eidophusikon in London, Tesla's displays of electricity and Robert-Houdin's house in Paris.)

Dennis's House also works as an immersive spectacle because, as Mystery Plays and Stations of the Cross worked in Catholic England, the story moves around physical space. When Severs was alive you moved around 18 Folgate Street with him. Today, the script is the same as the one Dennis developed over many years, sleeping in the beds and eating off the same plates as the imaginary family he shared the house with. Movement - of a story, through physical space - means the audience or viewer doesn't have time to dwell on the unreality of the situation as they do watching a static display of an animatronic replica of a dead American President.

When the moving image itself moves through physical space the possibility is presented of spectacle as a sleight of hand, a deflection - in the sense that the term's employed in secular or stage magic - from unreality; unlocking mood, ambience, emotional presence, memory. In this sense it would be very much like Artaud's idea of a "poetry of space". The "narrator" standing in for Dennis would be the puffer fish. The audience would watch the floating projector as another time traveller, showing them an X-Ray of history.

Zen and the Uncanny Valley[edit]

Thought must be given to how unreality can be made a virtue in creating a magical illusion of the flying vehicle as guide and narrator.

The BeeKeepers' early experiments with a DJI Phantom 2 with a Pico Pix projector attached to it suggest that, even with the relative stability and agility of a quadcopter [See: Projector drone - the future of advertising and Raffaello D'Andrea: The astounding athletic power of quadcopters], the jerky movements of a pilot operating a joystick, when magnified by the wobbling frame of an image projected on a flat surface, breaks suspension of disbelief in the moment. On a recent Ripper walk through East London we observed a projected drawing of one of the killer's victims blown up 10' onto a wall, near to where her body was found. The slight shaking of a projector operator's hand after a few minutes of holding a 270g plastic box up in the air popped the bubble of unreality of the moment. It seemed to remind the audience that they were not magically transported back to the 1880s but were cold, standing in the street in Whitechapel, in need of coffee and for the walk to be over.

In many ways the "humanity" of a humming bird or puffer fish pilot's handiwork would remind the audience that they weren't watching a narrator but a puppet. The effect would be similar to the efforts of Gerry Anderson's puppeteers to imitate a human "walk" rather than have the puppets move backwards and forwards, like sticks.

FAB "The Next Generation"
FAB "The Next Generation".

Ok, let's make this interesting...
Ok, let's make this interesting...

Compare and contrast the unreality of Team America with the genuinely magical illusion of Jaquet Droz's 18th century automata 'The Writer' (one of the inspirations for Scorcese's 'Hugo'):

Jaquet Droz's 18th automata 'The Writer'.
Jaquet Droz's automata 'The Writer'.

'The Writer' makes a virtue of the fact that we're paying very close attention to tiny details. The fact that it's a simulation of a child writing evokes memories of how clumsy we were as kid's learning to write, and makes the precision of the mechanism's writing all the more astonishing as a spectacle.

In a similar way, it may be better to have the puffer fish make unnatural movements - flying in straight lines, perfect parabolas, manoeuvring to pivot at right angles - rather than mimic insect flight or more "human" living movements. As this sequence demonstrates, computer-controlled motion of flying vehicles can be thrilling and surprising: [See: Raffaello D'Andrea: The astounding athletic power of quadcopters].

Another aesthetic challenge with flying automata is to find a way to overcome the association of 'drones' with death. It's been noted that historically Japanese culture has managed to overcome many of the cultural associations of robots with fear. The locus of this more optimistic attitude towards automation and living machines in Japanese culture is often identified as having deep roots in the religious philosophy of 'Asia', in the animism of early Shinto beliefs combined with Buddhist ideas about the nature of consciousness, and that this is opposed to the 'dualism' of the West.[27] However, while it's true that Shinto, the early animism of Japan - especially in the Northern islands - and Vedic religions including Buddhism and Hinduism contain beliefs and teachings that all matter has the capacity for sentience, this seems like a very cerebral analysis.

Most Japanese school kids grow up wanting to be a Kamen Rider, a TV, toy and film franchise, which along with Ultraman is Japan's equivalent to Doctor Who or Star Trek. Kamen Riders are cool, robotic, weird insectoid super heros with martial arts abilities, from the same "henshin" idiom as the Power Rangers. Outside Japan the insectoid look of the Kamen Riders has been an aesthetic influence on, among other things, Ben 10.

Japanese school children have relatively little appreciation of complex, thousand year old Shinto-Confucian-Buddhist doctrines about consciousness, so there are probably more obvious reasons why they aren't creeped out by Kamen Riders (and why girls dig Bumblebee). For one thing, automation has been part of Japan's modernisation and national reconstruction after WWII. For the most part there are few industrial accidents reported in Japan and machinery that's in use is for the most part modern. Compare this with other 'Asian' cultures like India or Bangladesh. The most common industrial machinery in both countries is the loom. Usually an ancient, dangerous, dirty and noisy machine running day and night, machine looms cough out tiny filaments of cotton into the air, giving poor artisans from the weaver caste lung cancer. People grow up in South Asia knowing that automation can be scary and can kill you.

Another factor that makes Japan different from other Asian cultures in regard to living machines is that the attitude that inanimate objects magically coming to life isn't necessarily a bad thing, which is strongly associated with animated cartoons in Europe and North America, predates cinema in Japan. There's a continuity between the - often quite comic, playful and silly - Japanese folk beliefs, which in Britain we might compare with Puck in Shakespeare[28], and cinematic and other depictions of Yokai in popular culture. The most famous is Totoro, but Karakasa the living parasol with a giant tongue has been part of Japanese culture since at least the 10th Century CE, and has been entertaining Japanese film audiences in the Daiei Film Company's 'Yokai' series since 1968.

The Yokai Karakasa
The Yokai Karakasa

Karakasa is an example of Tsukumogami, the Shingon Buddhist idea that any object "that has reached their 100th birthday and thus become alive and self-aware." The teachings of Shingon Buddhism may be mostly forgotten and ignored in Japan but those teachings have in some ways made popular the idea that Kamen Rider Drive's talking belt is his friend, protector and teacher (like Knight Rider's car), or that giant robots may be the good guys. It's interesting to contemplate how the idea of machines as being benign, technology as a trusted friend and teacher, may have emerged from folklore which encouraged people to think of objects over a century old - objects which were once important and familiar to someone close to us, but who're just beyond the veil of memory - as being stand-ins for ancestors. In this sense robots could be seen as being as much from the past as they are from the future as well.

From the level of Japanese popular culture aimed primarily at kids upwards, weird, alien-looking, insectoid living machines are portrayed as an extension of a material universe in which sentience is an emergent property of complexity; and in which the fundamental nature of that sentience and of that reality is to be compassionate, kind, to fight for justice, and to be Good.

The influence of Japanese pop culture worldwide, through the internet and cosplay, cannot be underestimated. This colourful, bright, optimistic and positive attitude to robots and the Future is now the unspoken mainstream attitude of people under thirty; whereas the bleak, depressive Terminator-by-way-of-Christopher Nolan view of robotics as death technology is the attitude in post-industrial cultures like the United States among cynical people in their thirties. While these are the people who may have broken the Future in the last decade by maxing out their credit cards and distracting everyone with Buzzfeed, they're not the ones who're going to be fixing it.

Kamen Rider Black RX

Immersive reality as stories and games[edit]

'Not to find one's way in a city may well be uninteresting and banal. It requires ignorance – nothing more. But to lose oneself in a city – as one loses oneself in a forest – that calls for quite a different schooling. Then signboards, street names, passers-by, roofs, kiosks, or bars must speak to the wanderer like a cracking twig under his feet, like the startling call of a bittern in the distance, like the sudden stillness of a clearing with a lily standing erect at its centre. Paris taught me this art of straying.'

Walter Benjamin, A Berlin Chronicle.[29]

'The pleasurable surrender of the mind to an imaginative world is often described, in Coleridge's phrase, as "the willing suspension of disbelief." But this is too passive a formulation even for traditional media. When we enter a fictional world, we do not merely "suspend" a critical faculty; we also exercise a creative faculty. We do not suspend belief so much as we actively create belief. Because of our desire to experience immersion, we focus our attention on the enveloping world and we use our intelligence to reinforce rather than to question the reality of the experience.

[...] We bring our own cognitive, cultural, and psychological templates to every story as we assess the characters and anticipate the way the story is likely to go. Encyclopedic writers like James Joyce, Faulkner, Tolkein or Gene Roddenbury evoke this kind of response by the encyclopedic detail and intricacy with which they present their fictional creations.'

Janet H. Murray, 'Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace'[30].

'Pierre Lévy speculates about what kind of aesthetic works would respond to the demands of his knowledge cultures. First, he suggests that the distinction between authors and readers, producers and spectators, creators and interpreters will blend to form a circuit of expression, with each participant working to sustain the activity of the others. The artwork will be what Levy calls a "cultural attractor", drawing together and creating common ground between diverse communities; we might also describe it as a cultural activator, setting into motion their decipherment, speculation and elaboration. The challenge he says, is to create works with enough depth that they can justify such large-scale efforts. "Our primary goal should be to prevent closure from occurring too quickly."'

Henry Jenkins, 2006 'Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide'.[31]

Would the puffer fish as a tool for historical interpretation - the floating avatar as narrator and tour guide, swimming around public space, summoned to your side by a smart phone app, showing us X-ray views of the past - do more than can be achieved already by other kinds of augmented reality, on headsets, smart phones and tablets?

Acting as historical guides, the creatures of the involution ocean would play a different role from handheld, personal walk-throughs of history, in two respects.

Firstly, they would be what Pierre Lévy refers to as "cultural attractors" in their own right. The presence of a guide would allow for experiences as "worlds" that cohere. Much as you could think of periods of London's history - Roman London, Tudor and Shakespearian London, Georgian London, Swinging London - as "brands" they also exist as "worlds" in the popular imagination. In public space, they can only be activated from the imagination when there's a story teller or guide.

A procession or theatrical spectacle created around a floating avatar would create the opportunity for the kinds of collaborative, imaginative suspensions of disbelief which we experiences as part of a cinema or theatre audience. By providing a narrator or guide, the device becomes the focus for "active creation of belief", in Janet H. Murray's words: for the creation of a "third person" in the imagination of more than one audience member, as though they're being presented with a narrative rather than discovering breadcrumb trails of information, much as one distractedly surfs social media with one eye and TV channels with the other. It would be "show" as well as "tell".

Secondly, it would give people a reason to leave their homes and workplace and do something fun with other people. This raises the questions of whether the puffer fish would be more than a narrrator and guide but also a Games Master (like the Dungeon Master in table top Role Playing Games), and what the value of creating a visitor or public experience like that might be?

In his book 'A Theory of Fun' the games designer Raph Koster remarks:

'Games do better [than stories] at emotions that relate to mastery. Stories can get these too, however. Getting emotional effects out of games may be the wrong approach - perhaps a better question is whether stories can be fun in the way games can.'[32]

In this sense, the puffer fish as story teller, Games Master, focus of imaginative role playing would continue a philosophical function of 'epic machinery' in theatre that dates back to at least the 17th Century; as the academic Simon During puts it, that stage machinery can provide "a fit means for expressing enthusiasm and liberating imaginative power".[33]

Motion pictures without borders[edit]

By attaching a projector to a SUA and making films roam - and the context of scenes, dialogue, music and imagery merge with their real world frame and setting – the possibility is raised of an innovation that could be as radical a change as the shift from films made for a single-viewer, to films made to be exhibited to a general audience.

An example of this would be projecting Heathcote Williams performing Prospero's 'Our revels now are ended' speech from Derk Jarman's 1979 film 'The Tempest' where the speech was first performed at Playhouse Yard by Blackfriars station, which is now the Euromoney HQ. Shakespeare's apartment – according to his will – was a few hundred yards away down Irelands Yard, above the Eastern Gate of the old Dominican monastery - now demolished – and above where the sign for the Cockpit pub is now, roughly (which was there when he was alive). There's no sign anywhere to let you know that both London's first theatre and Shakespeare's home was there.[34]

One of the reasons why film production took off everywhere but the UK at the turn of the century was that two early pioneers of cinema based in Brighton - George Albert Smith and William Friese Greene - became embroiled in a patent row over colour film, thinking this would be the technology that would turn their investments into big business. Brighton had the ingredients to be Hollywood: lots of sunlight, necessary in the era before electrified film lighting; and sufficient numbers of chemists dabbling in motion pictures and resting thespians. Yet Friese Greene and Smith sunk the small fortunes they'd made from their early successes in cinema into lawyer's fees to control colour film production, not into developing projectors. The romanticised 1951 biopic of Friese Greene, 'The Magic Box' has him operating a projector even though it was his lack of such technology that largely contributed to the decline of his fortunes. In 1921, at a meeting to discuss the poor state of the British film industry generally, he got to his feet to speak but sat down and slumped forward in his chair, dead.

The Lumière Brothers Cinematograph – which could both record and project moving images – became the technology that established the motion picture business internationally. This was because you could make more money as a film producer and distributor charging on the door by showing a film on a sheet in a hall or tent – and in no short order, purpose-built halls with proper screens - than the previous means of exhibiting them: which was in rows of hand-cranked 'what the butler saw' machines in penny arcades and dime museums. Colour wouldn't have made much difference. Projectors were still the alembic technology for the continuation of the movie business over a century.

Projection changed cinema as a means of communication and as an art form. It made motion pictures a collective experience, like going to the theatre or a temple, rather than something private that you peeked at through a viewing lens. It created a frame for the movie, which became part of the experience. (You made an appointment with the art, like going to Church for an appointment with God, rather than God or Art coming to you through prayer or a private audience with a book or, later, TV and laptops). The frame became part of the energy and excitement of cinema, giving rise to the urban legend at audiences thrilling at a train drawing into a station in the Lumière's 1895 film 'L'Arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat'.

L'Arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat 1895
L'Arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat 1895

There has been scholarly interest in George Albert Smith's innovations in terms of superimposition of images in his films: Smith developed many techniques like the Point of View shot and the first cut from an exterior shot to a scene shot in a studio. Smith started out as a mesmerist and clairvoyant, with a magic lantern show at Brighton Aquarium (not far from where Friese Greene's laboratory was, near the present-day Poole Valley bus terminal).[35]

While attention has been paid in the study of the history of film and aesthetic developments of the last century to the significance of overlaying images on top of one another inside a frame, less attention has been paid to the possible significance to audiences and viewers of overlaying moving images over the frame of reality: the inherent meanings and sentiments unlocked by the location where someone sees the movie, as much as by what happens within the frame of the moving image.

There is a growing area of study of cinema audiences, and places where films have been seen, as much as of the films themselves. However there's been very little analysis so far of the aesthetic and historical impacts of the relationship between the content of a motion picture and where it's viewed.[36]

Future technologies[edit]

Wearable SUAs

  • The Touchpico was going to be about the size of a Samsung Galaxy S4 and had an infrared camera can readjust the lens to a preset focal length if the projector moves.[38] However, it's been rethought as the Touchjet Pond which at 266g is about the same size and weight as the Philips Pico Pix range, the difference being that the Touchjet Pond uses the projected image as a touch screen. That the lighter prototype was considered demonstrates that a wearable Moviedrone may be commercially viable one day, and is certainly technically feasible.

Remote presence avatar

Probably using a puffer fish with a camera onboard, this would allow remote visitors - including people on the other side of the world and with special mobility needs - the freedom to explore and experience great public spaces like the Tower or Kensington Palace as Londoners experience them, minute to minute, rather than passively through a static site webcam. When it rains they’d get rained on too, moving through the rain drops. When sunlight breaks through the clouds, they’d see that as well; the uninterrupted procession of daily life. A night time, Hampton Court ghost cam would be a little like the Tate robot cam[39] but for supernatural investigation. Connecting the remote presence avatar to a heads-up display like the Oculus would make the experience even more naturalistic and fluid. [See Oculus FPV - a fully immersive live view from a DJI Phantom 2].

The roaming vehicle in Tate - like the jelly fish but with no two-way remote presence avatar - allowed remote visitors to view not only the paintings in the galleries as static images, but in the context of their arrangement in a great national collection. It gave people far away from London a sense of time and place: how other people who’re physically present see a shared social and cultural space, and make it special and unique to their experience. Arguably, all that was missing from this was other people, because the roving cam was on at night. A robot that moves on the floor could trip up the general public. A remotely-operated balloon is another matter altogether, though.

Balloons and copters can do things that robots with wheels and tractor treads can’t: only flying automata could allow the public to see the Tower of London from the viewpoint of the ravens in real-time, flying towards it over the River Thames, between the buildings, around the moat.

Visitor information points – static CD-ROM players with keypads and screens – and immersive games on handheld devices have been rendered somewhat obsolete by wifi-enabled smart phones and Wikipedia. Technologies that try to bring the visitor to information by proximity or discovery have become redundant. Information comes to the visitor rather than the other way around. It’s as abundant in the air as pollen and dust. Visitors can probably see the Tower of London more clearly, under optimal viewing conditions - with no rain, no queues, and from every angle conceivable - in the comfort of their home on Google Earth.

By contrast, flying and roaming automata have immediate applications that would continue to have unique value to institutions like HRP, well into the future. They can bring the visitor to experiences they can’t have otherwise, by allowing them to explore sites more extensively than is possible on foot and to experience places as living locations, with the atmosphere and sense of presence missing from Google Streetview or other documentation of places that trap a location in amber.

  • The same technology behind Google Streetview - a 360' camera - would also allow for a 'frozen' version of these experiences. Drone travelogues are already popular.
  • Helmut Hlavacs at the University of Vienna has developed a first person remote presence avatar, using a copter.[40]

Augmented reality tours

Overlay this sense of the everyday present with an interpretation of the everyday past. You could look over Richmond Bridge in the present day and see the refugees from the 1666 Great Fire as an animation, camped out in the park; or look down the Thames from Tower Bridge to see a Frost Fair in progress.

But why limit the experience to people who visit the Tower in person? Even if you were ‘visiting’ from Bangalore, Lagos, Lima or Tokyo, remote avatars would let you clamber onto the frozen river and skate on the ice, or stand by a roasting ox and take bets on whether or not you’re about to fall through along with the ox and the spit. Rather than feeling like you’re in a clunky Second Life simulation, you’d be in the real London, in the sense that you could see the reality of the city all around you but with an apparition of the lost River Fleet and river boat taxis bobbing around, an onionskin layer on top of immediate reality.

  • There's still a lot of interest from Google and Amazon in the possibilities of quadcopters as delivery vehicles, but the UK legislation needs to be rethought to cope with the safety issues to aviation and the public of large numbers of devices over 7kg in the skies (which would be necessary to deliver anything weighing more than about 4kg).[41]

In both commercial and academic scientific fields where these two trends of high-end robotics research and crowd-funded consumer technology are converging fast, it’s felt widely that a Golden Age is fast approaching. This could include everything from robot surgeons and battlefield mine-clearing robots becoming a reality, to the 1950s dream of every day robots: with affordable, automated devices performing tasks like delivering groceries, to allowing individual explorers to navigate the depths of the oceans and submerged galleons, or even near-space.

Bodies fostering innovation in robotics[edit]

Death technology

Life technology

  • Dimension+ Hong Kong and Taipei-based art lab focussed on combining new technology including robotics with design.

Reading list[edit]

Literary and cultural theory

Technology and virtual reality theory

Science Fiction


  1. Simon During interviewed by Cabinet magazine, 2007.

    "The basic claim of the book is that secular magic—that is to say, magic that doesn't claim to be supernatural but has a relationship with the fictional and the emergence of show business—has had a greater effect on culture and society than we usually grant. Why has secular magic's contribution gotten lost? For several reasons. It's been neglected because historically it has had so little cultural capital. And it carries no ethical or moral charge. And it's closely connected to deceit. Then there's the secrecy that magicians operate under, which means its historical archive is limited. A lot of the information on how tricks work is never revealed. Magic acts usually don't have written scripts and don't leave traces. They slip out of historical memory for that reason too."

    See also: Simon During, 2004 'Modern Enchantments: The Cultural Power of Secular Magic' Harvard Press'.

  2. The puffer fish and the ecological analogy of an ocean filled with synthetic organisms have had previous incarnations, including the Vivarium project at MIT's Media Lab in the 1980s:

    Amid a two-foot heap of synthetic fur, graduate student Allison Druin is converting a chair into a large, friendly creature with a lap. Overhead a somewhat saggy seven-foot-long silver blimp rests against the pipes and conduits of the ceiling.
    [...] "I didn't make 'vivarium' up," Kay explained during one of his MIT visits. "It's a real word meaning an enclosed environment for life. The original idea came from Ann Marion when we were at Atari. One of our projects was to try and do intelligent autonomous Warner cartoon characters. You'd send Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd into the forest, and they would play out a cartoon as a result of their personalities. Meanwhile Ann Marion was stubbornly trying something else that I couldn't understand for a long time. Her idea was: 'Wouldn't it be great to do something that would be interesting because of its ecological and social communication in an environment?' The example she chose was an aquarium."

    Stewart Brand, 1987 'The Media Lab: inventing the future at MIT' Viking, New York, p 95 - 97.

  3. See also: Edwin Kee, 21st January 2011 'Inflatable robot arm won't break any bones' ubergizmo. Carnegie Mellon University, 2011 'Easy Does It', Pittsburgh, PA.
  4. Talha Dar, 4th May 2015 'This Smart Chute Deploys To Save Crashing Drones' Wonderful Engineering.
  5. See for example: FordTechMakuloco, 20th August 2014 'The Big Comparison Dji Phantom 2 vs Blade 350QX'.
  6. From: Civil Aviation Authority, Safety Regulation Group, June 2013 'Model Aircraft: A Guide to Safe Flying' Gatwick, UK, c 2 p 1.

    Definition of a Model Aircraft

    1.1 For the purposes of this document a 'model aircraft' is defined as any 'Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUA)' (0-20 kg) used for sporting and recreational purposes and a 'large model aircraft' is defined as any 'Unmanned Aircraft' (over 20 kg) used for sporting and recreational purposes. The Air Navigation Order (ANO) 2009 contains the legal definition of 'Small Unmanned Aircraft' and this definition is listed in this chapter.

    1.2 The ANO uses the term 'small unmanned aircraft' rather than 'model aircraft' so that 'Unmanned Aerial Vehicles' (UAVs) and other flying machines are captured. This publication is specifically written to cover model aircraft used for sporting and recreation purposes and therefore the terms 'model aircraft' or 'large model aircraft' are used throughout.

    2 Legal Definition of a Small Unmanned Aircraft Small Unmanned Aircraft (Article 255) – 'Any unmanned aircraft, other than a balloon or kite, having a mass of not more than 20 kg without its fuel but including any articles or equipment installed in or attached to the aircraft at the commencement of its flight'.

    NOTE: For electrically powered models the batteries must be included as part of the 20 kg limit. The batteries are in effect regarded as the fuel tank and electrons are regarded as the fuel.

  7. Mark Piesing, 20th February 2014 'The legal turbulence hindering drones in the UK' Wired, London.
  8. The relevant section regarding UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) of the ICO's 'In the picture' document:

    7.3 Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)

    UAS refer to the whole system under which unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) operate. They are also referred to using different names such as Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) and drones. UAV are unmanned vehicles which, if fitted with a camera, are capable of recording images whilst airborne. These devices can vary in size from the very large, up to the size of a plane, to the very small, which can be the size of a remote control plane or helicopter. They were first used by the military, but are now much more affordable and, as with BWV systems, the smaller devices can be easily purchased by businesses and members of the public.

    A distinction should be drawn between those individuals who can be considered as 'hobbyists' and are therefore generally using their device for domestic purposes, and those individuals or organisations who use the device for professional or commercial purposes. Where UAS are used for non-domestic purposes, operators will need to comply with data protection obligations and it will be good practice for domestic users to be aware of the potential privacy intrusion which the use of UAS can cause to make sure they're used in a responsible manner. Example: A business may purchase UAS to monitor inaccessible areas, such as a roof to check for damage. Its use should be limited to that specific function and recording should not occur when flying over other areas that may capture images of individuals.

    The use of UAS have a high potential for collateral intrusion by recording images of individuals unnecessarily and therefore can be highly privacy intrusive, ie the likelihood of recording individuals inadvertently is high, because of the height they can operate at and the unique vantage point they afford. Individuals may not always be directly identifiable from the footage captured by UAS, but can still be identified through the context they are captured in or by using the devices ability to zoom in on a specific person. As such, it is very important that you can provide a strong justification for their use. As with all of the other technologies discussed in this section, performing a robust privacy impact assessment will help you decide if using UAS is the most appropriate method to address the need that you have identified.

    As with other technologies discussed, it is important that the recording system on UAS can be switched on and off when appropriate. This is particularly important given the potential for the cameras to capture large numbers of individuals from a significant height. Unless you have a strong justification for doing so, and it is necessary and proportionate, recording should not be continuous. This is something which you should look at as part of the privacy impact assessment.

    UAS cover the whole system, rather than just the device in the air, so you need to ensure that the whole system is compliant. You should ensure that any data which you have collected is stored securely, for example by using encryption or another appropriate method of restricting access to the information. You should also ensure that data is retained for the minimum time necessary for its purpose and disposed of appropriately when no longer required.

    You may be able to reduce the risk of collateral intrusion by incorporating privacy by design methods. For example, you may be able to procure a device that has restricted vision so that its focus is only in one place. Privacy by design can be incorporated into your privacy impact assessment and can form part of your procurement process.

    One major issue with the use of UAS is the fact that on many occasions, individuals are unlikely to realise that they are being recorded, or may not know that UAV have a camera attached. The challenge of providing fair processing information is something that you must address if you decide to purchase UAS.

    You will need to come up with innovative ways of providing this information. For example, this could involve wearing highly visible clothing identifying yourself as the UAS operator, placing signage in the area you are operating UAS explaining its use and having a privacy notice on a website that you can direct people to, or some other form of privacy notice, so they can access further information.

    Although these issues are the same as for any aerial vehicle with an attached camera, we have focused here on how UAS can be used as they are a novel device with the potential for a greater impact on privacy.

    From: 15th October 2014 'In the picture: A data protection code of practice for surveillance cameras and personal information' Information Commissioner's Office, London, p 29.

    See also: Avery E. Holton; Sean Lawson; and Cynthia Love 9th December 2014 'Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: Opportunities, barriers, and the future of "drone journalism"' in 'Journalism practice' Routledge, London.

    Katie Collins, 12th February 2014 'Police, paps and privacy: the challenges of drone journalism' Wired, London.

  9. Frederic Lardinois, 9th February 2015 'NoFlyZone Lets You Establish A No-Fly Zone Over Your Property' Techcrunch.
  10. Peter Border; Carla Washbourne, 2nd October 2014 'Civilian Drones' POSTnotes POST-PN-479, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, Westminster UK, endnote 1: House of Commons Defence Committee Written Evidence from the Royal Aeronautical Society.
  11. ibid.
  12. ibid.
  13. ibid.
  14. Faisal J. Abbas 8th February 2015 'Drones for Good: UAE Honors Peaceful-Purpose Innovators' Huffington Post.
  15. Rudy Rucker, 1997 'The Ware Tetralogy: Freeware' p 336. See also: Wikipedia, The Ware Tetralogy, Freeware.
  16. From The BeeKeepers' Principles of BeeKeeping:

    5. The beehive learns through the diverse experiences of many participants

    In the study of evolution, this would be variation through mutation, in Situationism "détournement". What's being deformed or mutated may be physical things or space: putting up tents in a public place, for example, or projecting a film on the side of a building.

    Or it may be a change to an imaginary version of the environment, a temporary and theatrical transformation straying from a familiar story of a journey through the same space. No one has an identical experience of walking down a street although they may walk down the same street that many other people do, every day.

  17. Rosalind Williams, 1990 'Notes on the Underground: An Essay on Technology, Society, and the Imagination' MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. p 22.
    Quoting: Lewis Mumford, 1934 'Technics and Civilization' Harcourt, Brace and Company, San Diego, p 70.
  18. Susan Currell, 'Eugenic Decline and Recovery in Self-Improvement Literature of the Thirties' in Susan Currell, Christina Cogdell, Eds, 2006 'Popular Eugenics: National Efficiency and American Mass Culture in the 1930s' Ohio University Press, p 60. Quoting: James L Mursell, 1936 'Streamline Your Mind' J B Lippincott, Philadelphia, p 10.

    'As Colombia University professor James Mursell argued in 'Streamline Your Mind' although the psychologist cannot "revise your heredity or make you over afresh... he knows that if you really are the average man you are putting to productive use only a fraction of the power you possess [...] You are throwing away much of your native energy in overcoming what the physical scientist calls 'parasitic drag.'"'

  19. Mary Wollstonecraft (Godwin) Shelley, 1818 'Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus' Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor & Jones, London, Chap 10.
  20. George Dyson, 1998 'Darwin Among the Machines: The Evolution of Global Intelligence' Perseus Books, Preface.
  21. Excerpt from review of 'Darwin Among The Machines' by Tal Cohen, 30 September 1998.
  22. Roz Kaveney, 2005 'From Alien to The Matrix: Reading Science Fiction Film' I B Tauris, London, p 5.
  23. Antonin Artaud, quoted in Ed Schumacher (ed.), 1989 'Artaud on Theatre' Methuen, p 109.
  24. Marie-Laure Ryan, 2001 'Narrative as Virtual Reality' John Hopkins, Baltimore, p 91. Quoting: Sven Birkerts, 1994 'The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age' Fawcett Columbine, New York.
  25. Philip K Dick, 1978 'How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later' undelivered speech written for an appearance at the University of Missouri in Rolla.
  26. Haddock, 1800 'A description of Mr. Haddock's exhibition of Androides, or animated mechanism; also of telegraph worked by an automaton, etc' Preston and Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne.
    See also: Simon During, 2004 'Modern Enchantments: The Cultural Power of Secular Magic' Harvard Press, p 221.
  27. 'The cognitive dissonance caused by objects that lie on category boundaries may not be universal. For example, although some cultures push intersex individuals to choose a male or female gender, other cultures afford room for a third gender (e.g., two-spirit people among the Native Americans). Although common category membership produced the strongest object association in US children and adults, Chinese children and adults were most sensitive to contextual and functional relations between objects. This was attributed to a difference in cognitive style: The West may sanction an analytic cognitive style, whereas a cognitive style involving many relative comparisons may be more prevalent in Asia.

    So cultural factors may influence the perception of an entity lying on a category boundary.

    [...] Shinto, the original religion of Japan, derives from animism: the belief that spirits can inhabit objects. This affords a different sort of relationship, not only with nature, but with human creations like robots. If a stone or tree can have a spirit, why not a robot? Although few present-day Japanese believe in the literal truth of Shinto or Buddhism, they were part of the cultural background during Japan's modernization. Their philosophical elements have held an enduring influence on attitudes toward technology over the years.'

    K F MacDorman, S K Vasudevan, et al, 2008 'Does Japan really have robot mania? Comparing attitudes by implicit and explicit measures' '1.2 The roots of East–West differences', AI & Society, Springer-Verlag London Limited, p3.

  28. Katharine Briggs, 1959 'The anatomy of Puck: an examination of fairy beliefs among Shakespeare's contemporaries and successors' Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, p 13 -16.
  29. Michael W Jennings, Gary Smith, Howard Eiland (ed.), 2005 'Walter Benjamin, Selected Writings. Volume 2: Part 2. 1931-1934', Belknap press, Cambridge, Mass. p 598.
  30. Janet H. Murray, 1997 'Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace' MIT Press, Cambridges, Mass. p 110.
  31. Henry Jenkins, 2006 'Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide' NYU Press, p 95.
    Quoting: Pierre Lévy, 1997 'Collective Intelligence: Mankind's Emerging World in Cyberspace' Perseus Books, Cambride, Mass.
  32. Raph Koster, 2005 'A theory of Fun' Paraglyph Press, Scottsdale, Arizona.
  33. Certainly, by the end of the seventeenth century, enthusiasm could be reappropriated by both literature and criticism. One of the most suggestive moments in this welcoming of enthusiasm occurs in a 1668 essay on heroic plays by John Dryden (1631-1700). Dryden here contributes to yet another debate over the representation and social presence of sure, natural forces, this one specifically concerning "epic machinery" which was the name given to those spiritual or divine agents who hover over the fate of epic heroes. Commentary on this convention was not limited to epic poetry, because supramundane characters were also presented in plays and masques. In that context, the word 'machine' took a modem turn, referring to the actual apparatus employed to create the special effects of moving gods and spirits from heaven or hell to earth on stage. By the later seventeenth century four positions on 'epic machinery' were being contested. First, that epic machinery is outdated, and modern literature ought to represent familiar and ordinary life. This was the case put, rather timorously, by Sir William D'Avenant (1606-1668), with the approval of Hobbes. Second, that epic machinery is valuable only if it is Christian: this view was expressed ferociously by John Dennis (1657-1734). Third, that traditional epic machinery provides a fit means for expressing enthusiasm and liberating imaginative power. And fourth, that a new epic machinery was required: the older Dryden put the case for a fusion of Christian and classical elements in his 'Discourse Concerning Satire' (1693).

    Simon During, 2002 'Modern Enchantments: The Cultural Power of Secular Magic' 'From Magic to Film' Havard, p 52.

  34. A March 10th 1613 conveyance records the purchase of Henry Walker's Blackfriars Gate-house by "William Shakespeare", William Johnson, John Jackson, and John Hemming. Below is his signature "William Shakspre".

    'The Tempest' was one of the eight Shakespearean plays ' acted at court during the winter of 1612–13 as part of the festivities surrounding the marriage of Princess Elizabeth with Frederick V, the Elector of the Palatinate of the Rhine.

    Sir William Davenant states that 'The Tempest' had been performed at the Blackfriars Theatre. Careful consideration of stage directions within the play supports this, strongly suggesting that the play was written with Blackfriars Theatre rather than the Globe Theatre in mind.

    The speech is as follows:

    'You do look, my son, in a moved sort,
    As if you were dismay'd: be cheerful, sir.
    Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
    As I foretold you, were all spirits and
    Are melted into air, into thin air:
    And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
    The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
    The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
    Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve
    And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
    Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
    As dreams are made on, and our little life
    Is rounded with a sleep. Sir, I am vex'd;
    Bear with my weakness; my, brain is troubled:
    Be not disturb'd with my infirmity:
    If you be pleased, retire into my cell
    And there repose: a turn or two I'll walk,
    To still my beating mind.'

    The Moviedrone could turn, and lead the audience to Shakespeare's cell. It's often speculated that he played Prospero himself.

  35. See: Frank Gray, 2000 'George Albert Smith's visions and transformations: The films of 1898' in Simon Popple, Vanessa Toulmin (ed.), 2000 'Visual Delights: Essays on the Popular and Projected Image in the 19th Century' Flick Books, Wiltshire, p 170.

    Numerous comparisons that have been made between early magic shows, Eadweard Muybridge's experiments with photographing motion and the development of an avant garde aesthetic that became cubism and dada.

    For example: Simon During, 2002 'Modern Enchantments: The Cultural Power of Secular Magic' 'From Magic to Film' Havard, p 135.

    In an interview with the museum curator Katherine Kuh, Marcel Duchamp spoke about his 'Nude Descending a Staircase' and its relation to Futurism and the photographic motion studies of Muybridge and Marey:

    'In 1912... the idea of describing the movement of a nude coming downstairs while still retaining static visual means to do this, particularly interested me. The fact that I had seen chronophotographs of fencers in action and horse galloping (what we today call stroboscopic photography) gave me the idea for the 'Nude'. It doesn't mean that I copied these photographs. The Futurists were also interested in somewhat the same idea, though I was never a Futurist. And of course the motion picture with its cinematic techniques was developing then too. The whole idea of movement, of speed, was in the air.'

    Katherine Kuh, Marcel Duchamp, interview broadcast on the BBC program 'Monitor', 29 March 1961, published in Katherine Kuh (ed.), 1962 'The Artist's Voice. Talks with Seventeen', Harper & Row, New York, pp. 81-93.

    Stephen Kern, 2003 'The Culture of Time and Space, 1880-1918: With a New Preface' Harvard.

  36. For example: Richard Maltby, Daniel Biltereyst, Philippe Meers (ed.), 2011 'Explorations in New Cinema History: Approaches and Case Studies' John Wiley & Sons, New York.
  37. Paul Lamkin, March 17th 2015 'Incredible wearable drones of the future revealed at SXSW' And: Brendan Martin, March 2015 'Are drones the way forward? The good, the bad and the future' KPMG High Growth Technology Group, London.
  38. Manav Shangari, 5th August 2014 'TouchPico Is An Android Touchscreen That Fits In Your Pocket'
  39. Kirstie Beaven, 12th August 2014 ‘The final frontier: Astronauts, robots and sneaking into the gallery after dark’ London.
  40. Aviva Rutkin, 1st June 2015 'First-person drone tourism will let you see the sights from home' New Scientist, London.

    A commenter below the article notes the same concerns we have about using copters around the public. A smaller copter or a puffer fish would be far safer.

  41. CNA, 3st August 2014 ‘Bhutan tests drones for carrying medical supplies’.
    James Ball, 2nd December 2012 ‘Amazon to deliver by drone? Don't believe the hype’ Guardian.
    Dominic Rushe, 29th August 2014 ‘Google reveals home delivery drone program’ Guardian, New York.
  42. See also: Neel V Patel, 3rd May 2015 'The Scary-Dexterous Robots of the Darpa Challenge, Wired.
    DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) Finals
    John Arquilla, June 19th 2013 'Could Killer Robots Bring World Peace?' Foreign Policy, Washington, D.C.