IN YOUR FACE
Consumer drones are getting easier and easier to use. However,
piloting them does still require some
practice and skill, along with free
hands and a controller that’s probably
more expensive than it should be. This
is why there has been more research
on getting drones set up so that
almost entirely untrained users can
still do useful things with them.
At Simon Fraser University,
roboticists are seeing how far they
can push this idea. They’ve come up
with a system for controlling a drone
that doesn’t require experience or a
controller. Or even hands. Instead, you
use your face; specifically funny faces.
So, how does this work?
The user’s identity and facial expressions are learned by
the drone, and input is provided through touch-based
You hold the drone at eye level, gaze deeply into its
camera, and give it your best neutral look. Hold this neutral
look until the drone is satisfied that you are consistently
neutral. This should take less than a minute (unless you get
the giggles). Next, rotate the drone so that it’s sideways, and
make a “trigger” face — something that is different from
your neutral face (the goofier, the better).
The drone then starts flying and keeps its user centered
in its camera view, while the user lines up the trajectory and
chooses its power by “drawing back” (analogous to firing a
bow or slingshot).
Place the drone on the ground in front of you, and it’ll
take off and position itself menacingly in front of you. Try and
move from side to side to escape, and the drone will
remorselessly yaw to keep you in view. Once you have it
pointed exactly the wrong way, back away slowly and imagine
that there’s a rubber band between you and the drone and
it’s getting stretched more and more.
You then signal to the robot to begin a preset
parameterized trajectory. The robot executes the trajectory
with parameters observed at the end of the Aim phase
When the drone is facing in the direction you don’t want
it to go (and you think you’re far enough
away), make your trigger face and the
drone will fly off backwards (directly away
from you) on a ballistic trajectory. The
strength of this is moderated by how far
away from the drone you are when you
made the face.
Image courtesy of Simon Fraser University.
Neutral faces (above) and trigger faces
bots IN BRIEF
20 SERVO 05/06.2018