Meet Ollie, the DIY autonomous robotic blimp. He (yes, the blimp is apparently a "he") floats on Helium; has flapping wings made of wire, mylar, and servos; and he reacts to his surroundings -- often socially awkwardly.

Created by Pritika Nilaratna, a user experience designer and programmer in New York City, Ollie floats around and tries to get attention from people. He is observant and reacts to voices by "excitedly flapping his wings. Ollie is meant to be friendly and eager to be noticed, but also unobtrusive--you could just just push him out of your way if he gets annoying.


[Photo: Pritika Nilaratna]

In the video of Ollie below, you see that he actually kind of stalks people to get their attention. According to Pritikia "machine-human interaction has the potential to be both poetic and ubiquitous," and Ollie "is a demonstration of the creative capabilities of robots as inhabitants of our society, breaking the stereotype of the servile robot." In other words, Ollie is meant to break the standard that we're so used to. It's definitely funny watching some people's responses to Ollie.

So how do you get your own? You make it! Ollie is under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License which means that you can copy and modify Ollie's design so long as you give credit to the author (Pritika) and that you only distribute the resulting work under the same kind or similar license.

You can make your very own Ollie with an Arduino board, some servos, a mylar balloon envelope, and some other basic electronics supplies. Pritika posted instructions for Ollie on the main Ollie site and also as an Instructables project. To learn more about Ollie check out the abstract.