Could flying Lego bricks be the future of play?
With a new technology, kids can arrange a set of Lego elements in whatever way they want as flying miniature drones mimic their creations. In addition to taking on the Legos' shapes and colors, the drones use sensors and gyroscopes to replicate shape alterations as a mid-air animation.
Developed by the Human Media Lab at Queen's University in Canada in collaboration with the Lego Group's Creative Play Lab, the technology will be on display at the Lego World expo in Copenhagen, which runs from Feb. 15-18, 2018.
Creative Play Lab VP Tom Donaldson points out that the technology is a "playful experiment, not a real Lego product." But, he says, "It is a way for us to explore the boundaries of what can be done with a combination of technology, Lego bricks and loads of playful imagination."
"At the Human Media Lab, we believe this technology has the potential to take experiential learning to an entirely new level," adds Dr. Roel Vertegaal, head of the Human Media Lab and professor of human-computer interaction at Queen's University. Vertegaal believes that the drone technology could potentially unlock new realms of interactive insight into the physical world – perhaps as a way to teach the concepts of physics to young schoolchildren.
"As an example, imagine us interactively reconstructing the movement of planets around our sun or distant stars in the Milky Way galaxy," he says. Vertegaal paints a picture of kids learning about concepts such as gravity and planetary orbits not from a textbook or two-dimensional depiction – but from a "real physical environment."
Vertegaal's research collaborator, Dr. Tim Merritt of Denmark's Aalborg University, will be on hand during the Lego World installation to talk with children and parents and discuss their experience with using the technology. The information gleaned from these discussions will provide insight as to how kids can interact and learn from drones.