Quentin Lindsey, Daniel Mellinger, and Vijay Kumar from the University of Pennsylvania’s GRASP Lab—General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception—have devised a system whereby autonomous flying helicopters can assemble a rudimentary architectural grid using small magnetic beams.
This technology begs a series of questions, of course, including who might first pick up on and directly invest in this construction process (the field exploration wings of transnational oil-services firms? forward-operating base commanders of the 22nd-century U.S. military? rogue GSD students self-supported by a family trust fund?), what sorts of architectural styles might result given the technical and material limitations associated with magnetic cloud-construction (a return to the minimalist grid? Sol Lewitt as architectural progenitor?), and how successfully this could be scaled up to the dimensions of whole towns and cities.
It might not be altogether unfeasible, in other words, given enough time and investment, that we’ll someday see flocks of autonomous helicopters roaring off into western Australia, or into the Canadian Arctic, autonomously assembling supply-chain-governed grid-cities where every magnet, bolt, beam, and screw is dutifully accounted for and guided into place by intelligent airborne mechanisms. Then the humans move in.
Or, extending this into the clichéd territory where BLDGBLOG and the Terminator begin to overlap, perhaps the machines will construct factories for the production of more machines, which will then fly onward and further to build yet more factories, constructing a sovereign halo of autonomous machine-urbanism in the earth’s north polar latitudes.