Shared by Daniel
RTS games in the future are going to be so cool
I love Microsoft Surface. I’ve been in love with it ever since the hands-on demo I got back at CES 2008. Since then, Surface has trickled into a few retail settings (and become the most epic D&D tabletop evar), but it shines when it comes to practical applications, too. Mark Micire at UMass Lowell has taken a Surface table and set it up to control a small swarm of (as yet hypothetical) robots through one of the most simple and effective interfaces I’ve ever seen, a hallmark of Surface. Not only can you just tap, touch, and drag to command as many robots as you like, but if you need to take personal control, the interface for that is extremely slick, Minority Report style. Furthermore, the control interface is also the display, making it fast and intuitive to change commands based on new data. Although it’s not implemented here, a logical next step might be to update the Surface display based on real-time mapping data from the robot swarm.
Another advantage of this kind of system is that you can combine multiple types of robots returning all kinds of data into one seamless command and control display. Like, imagine that some of the swarm consisted of UAVs, and you could add a Z coordinate and send them off to scout ahead. And maybe they have radar or LIDAR, and then that data gets overlaid on the display as well. Sort of like this, except real. Am I gushing? I think I’m gushing. But this is totally cool, and there’s tons of potential. It’s not even that there’s anything that innovative going on here, strictly… It’s just that Surface is able to merge existing hardware and existing controls into a new interface, which makes all the difference.
While I wouldn’t say that interface is necessarily overlooked when it comes to the current generation of robot designs, I do think it’s under-emphasized. People tend to focus on making a totally awesome robot, but unless it’s entirely autonomous, the effectiveness with which the robot operates is dependent on (and in some cases constrained by) the ability of the human user to communicate what they want to the robot quickly and precisely. And even if it IS entirely autonomous, some directions are generally required. I won’t belabor the many examples of this, but I would suggest that a mediocre robot with a good control system is substantially more effective than a good robot with a mediocre control system.