You get Sparked, a very short, very enjoyable film in which an electrician repairing a lamp causes a spark that brings all the lamps in his collection to life. It’s as if The Sorcerer’s Apprentice were infused with Batteries Not Included, but amazingly, there are no wires or special effects at work. Everything you see really happened over a three-day shoot.
The lampshades float like ghosts through space, thanks to tightly choreographed quadcopter drones flying beneath. Each drone moves according to distinct algorithms, so each has physical ticks that soften some of the robotic precision you typically expect.
The performance takes place inside a 30-foot-square arena that ETH Zurich uses to choreograph many of their most impressive demonstrations. Here, an invisible motion capture system reports the drones’ position 200 times a second to a central computer, which coordinates the choreography via wireless communication. There might not be any strings attached, technically speaking, but they haven’t completely cut the cord just yet.
When you’re done with the performance piece, I’d urge you to watch the credits for a behind-the-scenes easter egg, then check out the second video for a full behind-the-scenes. Each will help you appreciate both the art and science at play.