Drones combined with AI form an amazing tool for urban safety as was demonstrated by “Twinkles” – a Flying Lighting Creature at the April 2018 iF Design Foundation conclave. “Twinkles” Created by Honghao & Jiabao of Harvard University, were demonstrated in its Professional Concept category.
Honghao and team decided to tackle the growing concerns of night time urban safety combining drone tech and AI. They created Twinkle – a luminous transformative creature stationed on light posts- which are “curious aerial animals attracted by human activities. During daytime, they rest on urban light posts, expanding their solar panels for charging. At night, they interact with individuals walking on the street in their own way based on their distinct personalities. Twinkles are indirect solutions for improving urban safety without surveillance. We envisage a future that appliance goes beyond machine and becomes a companion with us.”
Twinkle is a safety companion that doesn’t require push a button to trigger nor being carried around; it just perches and comes into action when need arises. For anyone who is walking home alone at night and feels unsafe of the dark with nobody on the street- “Twinkle” comes, lighting up their way. As the person enters the yard of their house, the Twinkle from street communicates with Twinkles in the yard to light up and flies back to its original light post. As the person enters her room, Twinkles in the yard turn on the lights in the room.
Each drone has different parameters in speed, reaction time, altitude; power and consistency that lead to different behaviours of the drones and hence distinct personalities from friendly to hostile, from inactive to active; these flying creatures interact with people in their own way. “Puppy”, with active and friendly characteristic, is more interested in playing with children. “Big Boss”, standing high observes the surroundings, can direct people’s way during emergency. “Bumblebee” is very sensitive to suspected behaviours and act fast accordingly. “Anti-social Guy” is not interested in anything happening around. “Guardian Angel” keeps girls walking alone at night safe and sound. “Coach” guides people’s sports training and helps optimizing training route and time.
Twinkles’ operating system consists two parts. Twinkles light up and are also their own nests or post stations- work as solar charging station at daytime, and tracking stations at night time to understand people’s behaviour and position and send the data to other twinkles.
The basic components of twinkles are- a polyhedron shell made of optical fibre and LEDs to express the emotion of twinkles and prevent the direct contact with the propellers; a full quadcopter system which listens to the signal from the base station; and an LED lighting to provide adequate lighting.
The station houses a charging dock for wireless charging for twinkles, solar panels, and behaviour sensing module to capture, process surrounding people’s behaviour data and send it to the twinkles. The proposed system is self-contained with basic settings to keep a 300mm safety clearance from people. The following trigger range is like the spacing between each light post in urban area (around 10 meters) and maximum return home station distance should match block size of the area or around 150 meters.
Twinkle’s Station Control System- the small versions of prototypes used CoDrone by Robolink, an Arduino programmed open source drone toolkit. Flying behaviors are programmed through four parameters: throttle, yaw, roll, and pitch. Each drone character is programmed with distinct flying patterns. Kinect skeleton is used for base station gesture recognition by tracking to track hand and body gestures. Five gestures are coded for demonstration: raise hand to take off; remain position to hover; downward hand for landing; salute to great the drone; wave hands to dance together. Kinect’s data is sent through serial communication from Processing to Arduino. Arduino’s output is connected to analogue pin on controller board, which communicates with drone through Bluetooth. There are integrated sensors such as sound sensor to let the drone take actions like screaming or dancing with the music.
Surely, Twinkles are here to make the future a more secure place to be in.