On distributed piloting

2006-01-06 12:39:00 UTC

“Distributed piloting” is a term invented by Peter Hosey in 2006 (i.e. made up by me just now) for websites like Control Our Junk (which I found on Digg) that promise to let you control some real-world object from the internet. In the case of Control Our Junk, the objects to be controlled are a radio-controlled car, a train, and an airsoft gun.

The problem with it is that in any such system, you either have nobody controlling it (nobody’s heard of your website) or thousands of people trying to control it (front page of Digg). In the latter case, either people get kicked off, or all the control commands mix together into discord. The car goes every which way, the gun fires at everything, and the train is constantly going back and forth, with no apparent pattern. I guess you could call it a form of entropy.

I think a better system might be to get ~200 (maybe more) RC cars, and put them in a big arena, and give everybody at least five (or maybe ten) minutes of time. If there are <200 cars in use, a new user simply gets one of the free cars. Otherwise, if at least one person has been using a car for more than five minutes, the person who’s been on the longest is kicked off. Otherwise, the new user waits in a queue for somebody to hit their five-minute limit.

OK, now somebody go do that. I want to play with an RC car over the internet. ☺

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