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A Cyber Illusionist Makes Magic with Drones

Forget pulling a rabbit out of a hat, this magician pulls 24 drones out of a briefcase.
February 11, 2016, 5:20pm
Marco and his magic drones. Screencaps by the author

Stage magic is all about illusion, and that doesn’t change when it meets technology. One “Cyber Illusionist” (the preferred title for this modern magician) has created a video in which he controls a squad of drones with nothing but his own hands. While the 24 flying machines might have long ago seemed magical, today they are just the results of technological research.

magicLab, a New York-based creative lab that researches the combined potential of technology and illusion, joined forces with drone dance master Daito Manabe and Motoi Ishibashi of Rhizomatiks Research, a creative team from Tokyo, to create the video below, 24 Drone Flight.

The drones obediently fly into Marco’s briefcase.

It features magicLab’s director, Cyber Illusionist Marco Tempest, summoning the quadcopters from a briefcase, much like one might a rabbit from a hat. They float around him, responding to his movements and to each others’ using novel types of localization and control systems.

The drones took over three years to be developed by Rhizomatiks Research. While the technology probably has more practical implications than simply illusion, this collaboration, which Tempest claims anthropomorphizes the machines, is ripe with evocation—human and machine.

Click here to visit magicLab's website.

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Watch Drones Dance in Cirque Du Soleil’s Quadcopter Performance Film