Saturday, October 3, 2009

Of Fish and Communicative Movement

When large schools of fish travel through the water, the body operates with three simple rules of movement; collision avoidance, side-by-side locomotion, and distance metering. The school of fish, sometimes numbering into the thousands, is able to act as one unit because each individual fish is able to maneuver through the water in any direction in close proximity to it's neighbor without colliding. Nissan is using this natural ability of individuals safely navigating within a group as a model for a next-generation vehicle communication and movement system. According to Nissan:
"fish demonstrate extraordinary "anti-collision" abilities, navigating instinctively and intelligently through challenging terrain by detecting and avoiding obstacles"

Enter the EPORO. Well, actually, enter a lot of EPORO. As they move around, the small group of robots are able to communicate with each other based on the three simple rules of the school; collision avoidance, side-by-side locomotion, and distance metering. Nissan hopes that in the future, this communication based behavior could lead to more efficient and safe vehicular travel in heavy traffic situations. The application may also have potential in other industries such as urban design and development, weather information monitoring, and disaster relief response. Previously disparate objects, areas, and populations could become communicative networks that respond in real time with their environs and with each other.

In their 1971 project entitled Truckstop Network, the ever-experimental information nomads, Ant Farm, proposed a system of user-feedback devices connected across the interstate system of the US. The network of video screens and communication devices envisioned the users across the system interacting and responding to concurrent events taking place at the other truckstop locations. Large screens would project live video feeds, and continuously updated information boards would list ride information, events, and news. Here, the infrastructure itself, though 'virtual', serves as the empowering element in the system rather than occupying a typical subserviant role based on pure function.

EPORO seen on Inhabitat. Images via Nissan. Ant Farm Media Van image via CCA MEDIA Lab.

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