From lighting displays to graffiti-bots, drones are now being used to enhance audience experience within the arts world.
Andy Miah, chair of Science Communication and Future Media at Salford University, showed us how drone applications can spark something new into the arts. His presentation at last week’s Civic Drone Centre workshop brought a creative edge to the room. Moving away from the conventional use of drone technology, his introduction to drone art was a visually captivating, fresh approach.
“One thing that really hit home is how excited people are about the potential of UAVs to make a positive difference to our lives,” said Andy. Regardless of what projects people are working on and what expertise they have, there is already a sense of community and a “common purpose amongst people”.
Andy is also a Global Director at the Centre for Policies and Emerging Technologies (C-PET) and a Fellow at both the Foundation for Art and Creative Technologies (FACT) and at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET). Being highly regarded for his futuristic approach to technology, UAVs are pivotal addition to and his research in digital and biological technologies.
Project Daedalus developed by Abandon Normal Devices and Marshmallow Laser Feast is the latest project to grab Andy’s attention. With his involvement, they have been tapping into the creative potential of drones. Their method of multi-user content curation gives a new angle to storytelling and a new perspective to audiences.
Marshmallow Laser Feast are the producers of ‘Meet Your Creator’, an artistic display and “beautiful creation” which inspired Andy to explore creative contexts further. This indoor theatre performance was featured at the 2012 Saatchi and Saatchi New Directors’ Showcase, where 16 coordinated UAVs equipped with LEDs and motorised mirrors move in sync to music to produce a defining piece of drone art.
“I also saw what they were doing with project mapping technology and it blew my mind,” said Andy.
It takes a collaboration between technology, research and the arts to produce these creative showcases. Enabling multiple drones to fly simultaneously, they facilitate a unique display which can be operated through a single computerised system.
“Technology is the means by which we can explore a new range of creative propositions and possibilities,” said Andy. This technology has a lot of potential and trying to figure out new and innovative ways to use it is the exciting part.
The Civic Drone Centre workshop began proceedings by asking what piece of drone technology people found “exciting”. The results were varied, listing all from mapping and delivery drones to those which are used to assist mountain rescue operations, like the centre’s search and rescue aeroSee project. Andy’s pick is the Sparked performance by Cirque du Soleil, which can best be described as an extraordinary drone application meets Disney’s Fantasia. Drones were transformed into lampshades and took on performance roles, interacting with the actor on stage. “The choreography and entire story board was lovely and avoided the typical narratives you find about drones and technology,” explained Andy.
New technology is an important factor in Andy’s research, and the autonomous capabilities of drones has led him to investigate and question the rise of artificial intelligence. In an area where new forms of exciting innovation battle with the trepidation of machines taking over the world, Andy is keen to explore the natural progression of drone technology.
Regarding us as being a “robot dependent society now,” he is currently putting his thoughts to the British Council at ‘The Role of Technology in the Race for Global Talent’ event in Seoul, South Korea. He will be discussing the role of digital technology in education, to potentially proposing the use of artificially intelligent teachers in schools.
Although there is a lot of anxiety around privacy and the idea of robots taking over and making changes to our lives, Andy is keen to stress that it is a development which is worth exploring. He argues that “creativity may be the ultimate test of artificial intelligence”.
What drone technology or even drone art will look like in the future is unclear. However, through collaborations and creative thinking, we as a collective can broaden the capabilities of this technology. In the artistic sphere, dancing lights and synchronised hovering lampshades are just the beginning.