Art & Sculpture Craft & Design Drones Drones & Vehicles
This Week in Making: AI Drone Pilot, Reimagined Frankenstein’s Monster, and More

AI Races Human Pilot

For the past two years, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab has been developing the algorithms needed for a high-performance UAV to fly through the obstacles that are a part of drone races. To test whether or not they’ve succeeded at creating an AI that can fly as fast as a human pilot, they challenged Ken Loo, a drone racing pro, to a race. In the end, Loo won, averaging about 2.8 seconds faster per lap.

Interestingly enough, NASA’s drone did tie with Loo’s drone on the first lap. Loo was able to win because he made jerky, last-minute adjustments to his drone to shave time off his second and third laps. NASA’s drone, lacking human creativity, just couldn’t compete. It flew a lot smoother throughout the entire race, but it was following the most logical path, not the fastest.

Drone racing may still be a ways off for these AI controlled drones, but NASA hopes that their drone might benefit in other ways, like piloting themselves through warehouses to deliver packages or flying through cities in search of survivors after a natural disaster.

It’s Alive!

I always love when creators pool their respective skills to create something they couldn’t by themselves. Jordi Navarrete is a freelance artist who’s work captures a cartoonish joy and playful charm. Kieran McKay is a 3D character artist, who has a talent for making monsters and 3D printing. Level52 Studios specializes in creating limited edition toys and statues. All three came together to produce Frankie.

Seems only fitting that a collaboration that features several different sources would produce a reimagining of Frankenstein’s monster as their first project. Jordi drew the initial design for Frankie (back when she was still called Frankenstein-chan), McKay took Jordie’s work and 3D modeled it, and the two artists partnered with Level52 Studios to put together a Kickstarter to raise money for mass producing the model as a toy statue.

I don’t know if the the Kickstarter will be fully funded before time runs out, but I hope that it will. I like seeing these types of collaborations succeed. Regardless, follow Jordi (@vins_mousseux), McKay (@KieranMcKayArt), and Level52 Studios (@level52studios) on their social media. You’ll never be disappointed with the marvelous things these three create.

Gamify Your Workout

I don’t exercise all that much, mainly because taking the time to exercise means having less time to play video games and my free time is spotty as is. Jason, aka Cyclicoder, faced similar issues, so he decided to combine his game time and workout time. Not wanting to customize his workout bike itself, Jason instead made a wearable that consists of an Arduino Uno, an MPU9250 accelerometer, and a transmitter for the 433-MHz ISM band.

The wearable sends signals to a receiver whenever the feet are moving, simulating the same action of accelerating in a video game. This makes it perfect for racing games.

It looks like it works pretty well! I might have to consider trying to do the same thing. I know he didn’t want to customize the bike itself, but I wish that Jason had put sensors in the left and right handlebars of the workout bike, so players could squeeze them to turn left and right. Holding a PS4 controller while working out just doesn’t seem comfortable.

21st Century Workbench Tool

Add a tricked-out tablet to your workbench to give yourself over a dozen new tools in your arsenal!


Jordan has spent much of his life writing about his many geeky pastimes. He's particularly passionate about indie game design and Japanese art, but loves interacting with creators from all walks of life.

View more articles by Jordan Ramée