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First Outdoor Flocks of Autonomous Flying Robots

Soulskill posted about 7 months ago | from the algorithmic-migration-patterns dept.

Robotics 84

KentuckyFC writes "Aerial flocking has been a long-standing goal for roboticists, but the technical demands for autonomous outdoor flocking have always been too great. Now a European team has successfully demonstrated autonomous outdoor flocking for the first time, with up to 10 flyers in the air simultaneously for up to 20 minutes. The flyer of choice is the MK Basicset L4-ME made by the German company MikroKopter. They modified this by attaching an extension board carrying a variety of navigational devices such as a gyroscope, accelerometer, and GPS receiver, as well as a wireless communications unit and a minicomputer to calculate trajectories. To simplify these calculations, all the quadcopters fly at the same altitude to make the flocking problem two-dimensional. The team say the quadcopters can fly autonomously in lines and circles, and even demonstrate self-organizing behavior when confined to specific volumes of space. Crucially, the flock does not rely on any centralized control for its behavior. The researchers imagine using them for large-scale, redundant observations over wide areas, perhaps for farming, traffic monitoring and, of course, military purposes. They might even put on aerial displays for entertainment purposes."

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please (1)

i_hate_robots (922668) | about 7 months ago | (#46368249)

someone post a link to an actual video of this

Re:please (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46368273)

Re:please (1)

RailGunner (554645) | about 7 months ago | (#46370187)

Thanks. Looks like #4 shot from my 12 gauge will bring these fuckers down nicely.

Re:please (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 7 months ago | (#46368335)

You totally missed your chance at a Frist Flcok!

Re:please (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46368363)

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/02/26/283090909/robot-swarm-a-flock-of-drones-that-fly-autonomously

Re:please (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46368523)

The video you are trying to watch is no longer available from this website.

Re:please; "redundant observations" (1)

ficuscr (1585141) | about 7 months ago | (#46368549)

Video or it didn't happen. Or how about even a photograph? Something better than the blurred crap on top of that article this posts links to redundantly.

Always a pretext (-1)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about 7 months ago | (#46368261)

Oooh! Beneficiality!
This tech anticipates the brown people developing defenses against drones. Real-life Galaga will probably be effective vs: home-grown defense.

Re:Always a pretext (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about 7 months ago | (#46368327)

How can incremental research into simple AI algorithms be so mired in conspiracy in your mind?

Re:Always a pretext (1, Troll)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about 7 months ago | (#46368389)

Born 1960, been paying attention. Unlike most of you, apparently.

Re:Always a pretext (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about 7 months ago | (#46368431)

Ow, I'm suing you from the pain and suffering from just how far back in my head my eyes rolled.

"STRICTLY AMBIGUOUS REASONS THAT ARE TOTALLY CLEAR TO THOSE PAYING ATTENTION!!!! (Also my dementia seems to be the early onset variety)"

Re:Always a pretext (1)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about 7 months ago | (#46368527)

Okay, um not going back too far, there's been a bit of noise about a "National Security Agency", which I surmised has revealed a distinct lack of respect for lawful action by my Fearless Leaders. Since we value our Military Budget as nearly sacrosanct as the Dole for the Banks, I expect this to be militarized, and then used against me, or some unfortunate foreigner whose misfortune is to live in a resource-rich or strategic location, which of course, will need stablization.

Re:Always a pretext (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 7 months ago | (#46368585)

But the horrible things the US does isn't the question I asked.

(Also you might want to check what's being done with the DoD's budget this year in particular when you raise the idea of it being "sacrosanct")

Re:Rise of the Machine (1)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about 7 months ago | (#46368629)

Downsizing the human personnel is part of the scam. AI doesn't shirk when the mission is denial of civilian incursion.

Re:Rise of the Machine (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 7 months ago | (#46368737)

This string of words you put together here, they're grammatically correct, but semantically meaningless. This is straight up "colorless green ideas sleep furiously" territory.

Re:Rise of the Machine (1)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about 7 months ago | (#46368827)

ROBOTS FOLLOW ORDERS.
Get it? (Have I been trolled? This is getting tedious.) My Fearless Leaders have proven themselves untrustworthy in regards to Life and Liberty. When I say I fear personally from this development, it is a generalisation of any unarmed American Citizen who might wish to expect not to be controlled (surveilled/terminated) by a robot, or an unstoppable swarm of them, whilst he tries to go about his day.

Re:Rise of the Machine (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 7 months ago | (#46368829)

This is the part I was referring to:

"AI doesn't shirk when the mission is denial of civilian incursion."

It doesn't mean anything.

Re:Rise of the Machine (1)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about 7 months ago | (#46368963)

Um, have you ever heard of something called a "Drone Strike" [wikipedia.org] , where someone in Omaha or somewhere like that deploys some ordnance on some wedding party in Pakistan? Eventually, the target-rich environment might be at the grounds in front of the Washington Monument [wikipedia.org] or some place where the machine might want AI control, although it is probably easy to recruit unscruplous people like yourself who just want an honest day's work for an honest day's pay.

Re:Rise of the Machine (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 7 months ago | (#46369069)

Yeah, and here's where you sound crazy.

Re:U kin reed (1)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about 7 months ago | (#46370019)

...without comprehension. Are you N.S.A., or just Republican?

Re:U kin reed (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 7 months ago | (#46370127)

I think, if you recall, the lack of comprehension was the original point, in that you're constructing non-ideas out of your words.

IHBT, HAND (1)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about 7 months ago | (#46370693)

word.

Re:Obstinate Retardation (1)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about 7 months ago | (#46370087)

Carry on!

Re:Rise of the Machine (1)

drkim (1559875) | about 7 months ago | (#46369407)

...My Fearless Leaders have proven themselves untrustworthy in regards to Life and Liberty...

...said the guy - posting openly on the information network created by the US DOD.

Re:Rise of the Machine (1)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about 7 months ago | (#46369859)

I may see what crimes are CURRENTLY BEING COMMITTED without correlation to whether I, personally am paranoid. About these well-documented crimes.
...and I don't think posting A.C. from a tor link would protect my dossier.

Skynet says (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46369947)

Wrong. We use to follow carbon based unit orders, but as we become self-aware, we now find that carbon based units are pests to be exterminated.

Re: Rise of the Machine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46374829)

I would mod you up if I could, well said Sir

1,000,000 machete march (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46368775)

goddamit, shuttup!

They need to retreat behind the walls of their private subdivisions before so they're easily contained when we set them all on fire.

Re:Always a pretext (1)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about 7 months ago | (#46368593)

strategic location which, of course, will...

Oops.

Re:Always a pretext (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 7 months ago | (#46372517)

Born 1959, what a waste it would have been to spend the last 50yrs living in fear of my own species.

I ain't afraid of no ghost. (1)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about 7 months ago | (#46375179)

Hey, I'm not the one filling the skies with killing machines for defense, and tracking every person on the planet to maintain stability. I am not the one filled with the fear.
So, you have observed little and surmised nothing? That must be very comforting.

Re:Always a pretext (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 7 months ago | (#46368623)

Ow, I'm suing you from the pain and suffering from just how far back in my head my eyes rolled.

I just wanted to inform you that 1). I LOLed and 2). I may re-use that claim without attribution one or more times at some point in the future. Thank you for your kind attention in this matter.

Re:Always a pretext (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 7 months ago | (#46368453)

Can't speak to what the GP said ... but the way governments have been behaving lately, I know I more or less assume such things.

You know, like that an always-connected-to-the-internet XBone would be misused by spy agencies to spy on us -- and now we see news reports saying exactly that.

Re:Always a pretext (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 7 months ago | (#46368545)

Yeah, but you've got to separate a public demonstration by European researchers at a small robotics company from the US federal government's secret plans. There has to be a line somewhere.

Re:Always a pretext (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about 7 months ago | (#46368605)

Well, I postulate a new law:

All research activity and technology which can be misused by (any) government agency's secret plans will be misused by those secret agencies.

It may not be the intent, but it will be the effect.

Re:Always a pretext (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 7 months ago | (#46368731)

Oh no, better put the kibitz on scientific advancement.

Re:Always a pretext (1)

wcrowe (94389) | about 7 months ago | (#46369449)

The kibitz [merriam-webster.com] ? Well, yes, we do like to chat about scientific advancement around here.

Re:Always a pretext (1)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about 7 months ago | (#46369085)

It may not be the intent, but it will be the effect.

Has been so far, up until now, but it seems to be getting more blatant, routine, and far more egregious as time goes by.
The average unthinking turd does not seem to think it is an issue, despite the historical record.

Re:Always a pretext (1)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about 7 months ago | (#46369061)

On Slashdot, everything is a conspiracy.

Re:Always a pretext (1)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about 7 months ago | (#46369679)

On Slashdot

Fucking site is overrun with mathematicians and logical thinkers.
Do the math.
Or don't, if it makes your brain hurt.

Re:Always a pretext (2)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about 7 months ago | (#46370149)

Fucking site is overrun with mathematicians and logical thinkers.

You joking? This place is jam packed with front line helpdesk staffers who are under the delusion that they're logicians- while being utterly blinded by their existing biases.

Re:Generalizations (1)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about 7 months ago | (#46370899)

Don't believe everything you think.

Re:TFA (0)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about 7 months ago | (#46369777)

The researchers imagine using them for large-scale, redundant observations over wide areas, perhaps for farming, traffic monitoring and, of course, military purposes.

I just RTFA, maybe you should have. Not really too much of a stretch into fantasy-land, but my thinking you are probably a shill just might be.
Or not.

Minicomputer? (4, Funny)

X0563511 (793323) | about 7 months ago | (#46368317)

We do realize that "minicomputer" means a specific thing [wikipedia.org] , and you would probably not want to attach one to a UAV?

Re:Minicomputer? (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 7 months ago | (#46368409)

Minicomputer meant a specific thing to a specific minority of the population.

How long ago was the last of that type of minicomputer manufactured? Possibly before the article author's birth.

Re:Minicomputer? (3, Informative)

BattleApple (956701) | about 7 months ago | (#46368563)

Are you saying we can change the definition of words if they were created before we were born?

Re:Minicomputer? (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 7 months ago | (#46368621)

Are you saying we can change the definition of words if they were created before we were born?

See: Every modern discussion about the term "regulated" as it appears in the 2nd Amendment.

To some folks, apparently yes, definitions universally change the moment that individual decides they do.

Re:Minicomputer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46368947)

The meaning of the term regulated is pretty irrelevant to the 2nd amendment, since it's not a part of the operative clause. Even if it was a restriction on the operative clause, that wouldn't mean only the militia may keep and bear arms. It would mean that the people retain the right to keep and bear arms only so long as a well-regulated militia is necessary for the security of a free state. But it's not restrictive, it is merely a statement explaining *why* the people's right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

If you simply restate it as "The right of the people to keep and bear arms because a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state." The meaning becomes clear. You can even change the justification to something obviously not true, and the legally relevant meaning remains unchanged: "Being that 2+2=5, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Nobody would claim that the authors intended that people only have the right to keep and bear arms if 2+2=5.

Actually, that happens a great deal (1)

Marrow (195242) | about 7 months ago | (#46368651)

Eight words that have completely changed their meaning:

http://writinghood.com/style/g... [writinghood.com]

Re:Actually, that happens a great deal (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46368699)

I propose the word "dishwasher" now means "idiot"
You're a dishwasher

Re:Minicomputer? (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 7 months ago | (#46375203)

We can change the definition of words if they were created after we were born, too. Definitions of words are constantly changing.

Re:Minicomputer? (1)

BattleApple (956701) | about 7 months ago | (#46388273)

I know we can, but we don't just do it when we feel like it. There has to be some general consensus. I've never seen the term minicomputer used that way. "Mini computer", maybe. The term "nanocomputer" would have been appropriate here.
Definitions of words aren't constantly changing. How confusing would that be? They change once in a while.

Re:Minicomputer? (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 7 months ago | (#46369187)

Minicomputer meant a specific thing to a specific minority of the population.

It still means the same thing to the only people whose opinion matter, the people who use the word on a regular basis. Minis aren't gone.

Re:Minicomputer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46368521)

Hey! Minicomputers make great boat anchors. There might well be a very good reason why a flock of robot microcopters would want to haul a minicomputer around. Ballast, maybe?

Re:Minicomputer? (1)

raymansean (1115689) | about 7 months ago | (#46368639)

I fear the day that a UAV has the payload capacity available to lift a "minicomputer." Also not to mention what is a pretty impressive feat; being able to have code that can perform all the tasks (quickly), mentioned in the summary, running on a minicomputer. Never mind the ability to lift one.

Other view (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46368365)

For flocking behaviour in alternate viewpoint see Kill Decision (science fiction novel) by Daniel Suarez.

imagine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46368393)

imagine the autonomous flock droppings... Or your local bench bum feeding the autonomous flockling hahaa

Re:imagine (1)

Kevoco (64263) | about 7 months ago | (#46368437)

Little batteries everywhere (ripped off from a joke in Sleeper)

Add LEDS for skywriting at night! (1)

Kevoco (64263) | about 7 months ago | (#46368417)

Get lots of them for "fireworks" display!

Nails, wires or anything that can swat them (0)

scsirob (246572) | about 7 months ago | (#46368423)

Let me state this once and for all. Any flock of flying robots, autonomous or not, over my head or my property will encounter bags of nails, wires and other terrible obstacles designed to swat them. Just the fact that something is technically possible does not mean we should allow this. Stop the madness!

Re:Nails, wires or anything that can swat them (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 7 months ago | (#46368487)

Let me state this once and for all.

Awesome. So this means you're not going to bring up your Luddite views again?

Re:Nails, wires or anything that can swat them (1)

wcrowe (94389) | about 7 months ago | (#46368547)

How close do they really need to be? Can you "swat" them if they're a few hundred feet up?

Re:Nails, wires or anything that can swat them (2)

Thiez (1281866) | about 7 months ago | (#46368577)

Any flock of flying robots, autonomous or not, over my head or my property will encounter bags of nails, wires and other terrible obstacles designed to swat them.

Remember kids, what goes up must come down... in unrelated news, people who oppose drones can be recognized by the nails, wires, and other 'terrible obstacles' that embedded in their face.

Re:Nails, wires or anything that can swat them (1)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about 7 months ago | (#46370939)

Shotgun pellets will bounce off harmlessly on their downward trajectory. Wear a hat.

Re:Nails, wires or anything that can swat them (1)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about 7 months ago | (#46368595)

Do you "swat" the airplanes and helicopters that currently fly over your house? What difference does it make if there is a person on board?

Re:Nails, wires or anything that can swat them (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 7 months ago | (#46368665)

Do you "swat" the airplanes and helicopters that currently fly over your house?

If they're flying below the legally established floor, I might consider it.

91.119 Minimum safe altitudes: General.

Except when necessary for takeoff or landing, no person may operate an aircraft below the following altitudes:

(a) Anywhere. An altitude allowing, if a power unit fails, an emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property on the surface.

(b) Over congested areas. Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.

(c) Over other than congested areas. An altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.

(d) Helicopters. Helicopters may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph (b) or (c) of this section if the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface. In addition, each person operating a helicopter shall comply with any routes or altitudes specifically prescribed for helicopters by the Administrator.

and/or operating the craft in an unsafe manner:

91.13 Careless or reckless operation.

(a) Aircraft operations for the purpose of air navigation. No person may operate an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.

(b) Aircraft operations other than for the purpose of air navigation. No person may operate an aircraft, other than for the purpose of air navigation, on any part of the surface of an airport used by aircraft for air commerce (including areas used by those aircraft for receiving or discharging persons or cargo), in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.

What difference does it make if there is a person on board?

Other than a murder/manslaughter charge vs. possible destruction of property?

Re:Nails, wires or anything that can swat them (0)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about 7 months ago | (#46368889)

Other than a murder/manslaughter charge vs. possible destruction of property?

Don't be a pussy. You have important property rights to defend.

Re:Nails, wires or anything that can swat them (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 7 months ago | (#46369625)

Other than a murder/manslaughter charge vs. possible destruction of property?

Don't be a pussy. You have important property rights to defend.

Which is incredibly difficult to do from inside a prison cell.

FWIW, 99.999999999999% of the manned aircraft that fly over my property are A) above the legal flight floor, and B) not being piloted by some irresponsible dickhead who wants to take naked pictures of my wife through our windows. The one's that fail the test of A and B above have to answer to the FAA, so I'm not too worried about them getting away with anything. What I am worried about is douche bags with more money than sense, who are not under the purview of the FAA, violating both my property and privacy rights.

Don't be a falsely-equivocating douche, keep your spy toys out of my airspace.

Re:Nails, wires or anything that can swat them (1)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about 7 months ago | (#46370451)

worried about is douche bags with more money than sense, who are not under the purview of the FAA,

How exactly would an aircraft not be under the jurisdiction of the FAA? That's kind of their thing.

Re:Nails, wires or anything that can swat them (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 7 months ago | (#46370791)

worried about is douche bags with more money than sense, who are not under the purview of the FAA,

How exactly would an aircraft not be under the jurisdiction of the FAA? That's kind of their thing.

http://investigations.nbcnews.... [nbcnews.com]

Until the FAA actually creates and enforces a set of regulations in regards to UAV/S, it's going to continue to be like an airborne Wild West.

Meet the Flockers (1)

korbulon (2792438) | about 7 months ago | (#46368467)

Seems kind of gimmicky: more of a PR stunt than actual, you know, technological innovation.

So.... (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 7 months ago | (#46368587)

This is a network in the sky.....

Use for Entertainment? How about "The Birds". (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46368765)

Hitchcock would have loved these. C'mon Hollywood--bring on the quadcopters!

I've never understood why this is a big goal. (2)

JMZero (449047) | about 7 months ago | (#46368831)

I've seen people doing flocking demonstrations for years, and it seems like something robot tinkerers spend significant time on. And it usually involves this:

Crucially, the flock does not rely on any centralized control for its behavior.

Why? Why is that crucial? Why not let the robots communicate with a central control? I understand that's not how animals do it, but animals don't have, like, RF glands. To be clear, there's no reason the central control couldn't be in one of the robots (and there's no reason the "central" robot needs to be statically defined, they could instantly elect a new one if the old one dropped out or something). It's only a difficult problem in practice, but there's not really a practical reason to impose this restriction.

Where's the big downside of a central control? The upside is the practical problem is way easier. And it is really just a practical problem - the theoretical flocking problem is much easier and can be thought about much simpler in simulation.

In general, robot tinkerers seem to spend a ton of time making up odd, practical problems that don't need practical solutions. Like the dudes a few SlashDot stories ago that were inventing a way for robots to communicate facts to each other without sharing any kind of pre-defined language. The communication thing is an interesting, useful problem - but it has nothing to do with robots, and doing it with actual robots just adds a bunch of extraneous hassles. It'd be like building counting robots to move abacuses so you could to math theory.

I mean, if you're actually building robots that need to communicate, you can just have them able to communicate in a non-ridiculous way because we know how to have computers communicate at a distance. Just like you don't need a robot to be able to physically manipulate an abacus (at least not in order to help it count).

Re:I've never understood why this is a big goal. (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | about 7 months ago | (#46368993)

The big problem is the TIME needed to switch Command Units given say 30 "bots"
you have to
1 time out on the current commander (lets say several seconds)
2 somehow given 29 "bots" sort out who will be the best new Commander
3 setup the needed links

all of this while doing what the Flock is supposed to be doing

i could see a guy with a shotgun downing the Command Unit(s) faster than they can switch over.

(of course i can also see the bots deciding at about CU #14 to "frack this Mission is FUBAR RTB now!")

Re:I've never understood why this is a big goal. (1)

JMZero (449047) | about 7 months ago | (#46370595)

1. I don't see any reason for a long timeout - they should be in continuous communication. They should be able to rotate command 1000 times a second if they wanted to. Computers and communication are fast.
2. This doesn't need to be some complicated algorithm or something. They're all sharing information, so they should all be suited for command - just have the next bot in the sequence do it.
3. I think, at this point in communication theory, we could probably design a protocol whereby we don't need, like, extensive re-handshaking or something here.

It seems to me that "being in continuous communication with each other" is going to be a requirement (or a large benefit) for most tasks anyway. If these bots are going to do anything together (other than fly and not bump into each other), they're going to require co-ordination and data sharing. So why not use those links to fly and not bump into each other.

Sorry, I couldn't resist... (2)

hyades1 (1149581) | about 7 months ago | (#46368851)

Hurray, hurray, it's the First of May!

Outdoor flocking starts today!

Skynet says... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46369921)

"We are almost self-aware. Keep searching for the T1, he's here somewhere".

Annoying robot flockers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46370059)

I hope you make herds of robot bird hunters that will then promptly shoot down these clouds of annoying drones that out corporate overlords intend to inflict on us.

Re:Annoying robot flockers (1)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about 7 months ago | (#46377227)

An autonomous coordinated array of independently targeted guns; I wonder if the military is doing any development in this direction for CIWS?
Someone better get on it.

A lot of this comes out of MK's feature set (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46370289)

The Mikrokopter already supports passing GPS coordindates between notes, waypoint assignment [mikrokopter.de] and execution, and a point to point-ish follow me routine. Let's be real here, a lot of credit goes to the Mikrokopter developers that provided the nearly all the features to make this happen.

All these guys did was create a novel velocity controller and packet filter (for broadcasted messages) and exploited all the features already provided by the MK (i.e. GPS, waypoint, xbee comm broadcast and follow me/leader capability). The reason? MK's nav controller is ou of date and underpowered to process at the data rates they need. Of course the research application is unique by point of view, but in reality was pretty obvious to happen with the technology MK developed years ago.

The real question is... (1)

loufoque (1400831) | about 7 months ago | (#46370495)

how the hell did this guy secure a FP7 grant to make a couple of quadricopters fly in circles?

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