Watch A Flock Of Drone Butterflies Flutter Around [Video]

Complex machines mimic simple beings

Festo Butterfly Drone In Flight

Festo Butterfly Drone In Flight

Screenshot by author, from YouTube

Festo is building a mechanical menagerie. The German industrial design firm specializes in bio-inspired robots, which may find a use in future factories, like these exoskeletal gloves or this elephant-inspired robotic arm. Others are more whimsical, like this flying, floating, jellyfish-inspired robot that Festo held a contest to find practical uses for. And sometimes they're both practical and whimsical, like these hand-sized swarming cyber-ant-bots that could someday clean factory floors.

Festo's latest is a gorgeous flock of butterfly-like robots. The ten butterflybots fly not on their own but as part of a system built into the room, with ten cameras watching the robots and feeding their location data back into a central computer that coordinates their movements. It's a sterile sort of beauty, like the future's version of a colorful and inoffensive sculpture in the lobby of a bank's corporate headquarters.