Monday, March 28, 2011

Of Robots and Clouds

In the summer of 2022, Qatar, a small country on the Arabian Peninsula will host the FIFA World Cup. In the summer of 2022, temperatures are expected to reach, as they do now, up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit (50 C). FIFPro, the global football players union stated that temperature extremes such as this "...[do] not provide suitable conditions for a festival of football such as the World Cup". FIFA officials initially stated that the tournament, which is historically played in the summer months of June and July, would be moved to the winter months, but have since stated it would go on as planned during the summer.

Qatar engineers plan to air-condition the host stadiums through energy collected from solar arrays to combat the excessive heat, but also have a new trick up their sleeve: Robotic Clouds. According to a video clip on BBC, The "clouds", constructed of lightweight, inflatable materials, driven by four turbine engines are powered by integrated solar collectors and would be remote controlled to follow the path of the sun, thus "shielding it from direct sunlight and providing a favorable climatic environment" for the stadium.

This robotic cloud may be part of the natural evolution of the "Goodyear Blimp" phenomenon, which began in 1925 as a platform for advertisement and eventually the television and video broadcasting of sports events. Add to this technology the ability to create remote controlled micro-climates, and a new breed of airships is born. One where, as BLDG BLOG notes "the next step in temporary event architecture will be a remote-controlled swarm of rearrangeable horizontal and vertical surfaces, forming ceilings, roofs, walls, floors, ramps, and stairways."

The idea of a technology enabling users the power to control their environment is not a new one, but is still a
n extremely powerful one. One can easily imagine entire fleets being used to alter entire environments, programmed to mimic the circadian rhythms of far-off regions to enable agricultural production until now rendered impossible due to harsh climates. Or conversely, in a dystopic realization of the technology, climate warfare where fleets of robotic clouds are positioned to disrupt agriculture and other physical and social benefits of the sun.

I am reminded of a scene from the recent The Simpson's Movie where helpless Springfielder's stand trapped under a dome and watch a live feed from their captor on a huge video screen above...

Seen on BLDG BLOG and the BBC.