Sometimes we just crave the simple things in life: smelling freshly baked bread, getting a baby to laugh, watching a cat fall asleep on your lap, or having someone scratch your back.
And other times, you just want to watch a bunch of robotic quadrotors performing the James Bond theme song.
If you are reading this story, now is apparently one of those times. If you haven't done so already, watch the video at the top of this page.
You might think that these robots were designed and built by Q himself, but they were actually made by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania's General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) Lab, and the video made its debut at this years TED conference, which is underway in Long Beach, Calif. The robot band was autonomous; no humans with remote controls were involved. Rather, the tiny four-rotor helicopters were controlled wirelessly by a single computer, which determined their positions using cameras and infrared lights.
The applications of this technology go far beyond entertainment. "Figuring out how to move in unison without crashing into obstacles, or one another, is a critical skill for robot teams to develop," notes a press release from Penn. "Especially since they may one day be used to survey landscapes, build structures, or even play music."
Here's another video of the robots flying in formation. If these little guys are ever granted a license to kill, 007 might meet his match.
Update (11/20/2012): Check out this "making of" video to see how they did it.