DRL Dances With Umbrellas

The Distributed Robotics Lab (DRL) at CSAIL joined forces with modern dance company Pilobolus for the second time this fall to light up the nighttime sky when the two premiered their latest work, UP: The Umbrella Project at the PopTech Conference. Through UP, more than 250 volunteers participated in a live performance of constantly changing colorful umbrellas.
Each participant in UP was outfitted with an umbrella containing multi-colored LED lights and given the freedom to roam throughout the Camden Harbor Park & Amphitheatre. In all, more than one-thousand multi-colored LED lights and nearly fifty pounds of batteries were used to light up the sky over Camden.
Via hand-controls fabricated by MIT, each participant manipulated the color of his/her own umbrella, creating an ever-changing landscape of hues – or pixels on a screen, as seen in the real time bird’s eye view projection - as they moved through the space to create the piece.    A second performance of UP is currently being planned for spring 2013 in Boston.
“We’ve discovered that Daniela Rus is interested in the same questions as we are regarding the power of groups and the idea that groups are more capable than the sum of their parts,” explained Itamar Kubovy, Executive Director of Pilobolus. “UP works to demonstrate this reality by giving a group of untrained strangers tricked out umbrellas and 60 minutes to create something beautiful and moving.”
“We are so excited to work with Pilobolus on this project that brings cutting edge robots and computation together with people in an artistic expression. In our lab we are working on collaborative decision making for robots. The Umbrella Project allows us to explore our theories on collaboration in the context of crowds and to extract hypotheses for future approaches to robot control. Working on this with the Pilobolus team is a very enriching experience. We are excited and grateful for the opportunity!” explained Daniela Rus, director of CSAIL.