Flyfire micro-helicopters: Freely flying pixels form fantastic elastic display

Through the power of self-organising micro-helicopters comes the concept of a 3D flying display that could lighten up our skies

Patrick Steen Special to CNET News

Ever imagined what it would be like to be mauled by a swarm of mini helicopters? With Flyfire, you might just be able to. The project hopes to transform an LED display into a flying canvas through the power of self-organising micro-helicopters.

Flyfire plans to take traditional public presentations out of the two-dimensional arena and into an airborne display that can be experienced from all directions. Advertisers are sure to jump on board as soon as this technology graduates from the lab. 

Each helicopter is about the size of a golf ball and carries small, multi-coloured LED lights that, together with other flying 'copters, are able to create an elaborate visual display. Imagine computer pixels flying out into the night sky and you'll get the idea.

Since the lights are able to fly freely, their position and colour will be choreographed in such a way that they create anything from a 3D graph to an image of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa (as shown in the video below).

"It's like when Winnie the Pooh hits a beehive: a swarm of bees comes out and chases him while changing its configuration to resemble a beast," said E Roon Kang of SENSEable City Lab. "In Flyfire, each bee is essentially a pixel that emits coloured light and reconfigures itself into different forms."

While SENSEable and ARES figure out how to make the whole thing work in the real world, enjoy the following video that illustrates how the technology could transform public demonstrations.