. Science and fiction of Camera Drones « Torchwood Archives
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22Jun/120

Science and fiction of Camera Drones

According to this old EVE Chronicle, the image capsuleer pilots see when flying their ship comes from Camera Drones. These tiny robotic crafts orbit their mother ship and let it's pilot see the surrounding space. The forementioned chronicle also mentions that Camera Drones are using "a combination of an attractive magnetic force and repulsive electromechanical force" for navigation. While this explanation is enough for non-techie people and small children, it seems to lack any real Science to it.

When I read that chronicle for the first time, I said out loud "what a bullsh*t". While most of the EVE Online IP is really great and in many aspects is even more realistic than Star Trek or Star Wars, which are icons of  modern science fiction. Camera Drones just don't fit in this otherwise very high-tech universe.

In an universe, which has room for things as advanced as Sotiyo-Urbaata drive and brain implants enhancing human abilities and allowing them to pilot ships with thought alone, something as low-tech as Camera Drones hits a discordant note. The first solution that comes to my mind is a computer projection of ship's sensor data directly into pilot's visual cortex. The first paragraph of the chronicle actually nails it: "The first method tried, and the one the Jovians first used (and sometimes still do), was to use the data from wide range of scanners to paint a realistic view of the ship’s surroundings in the mind of the captain."

First off, this would explain the changes in the image quality as the EVE Online client was evolving. Jump from pre-Trinity engine to current V3 graphics could easily be explained from RP perspecitve as a simple "firmware upgrade" to the Sensor Visualization Computer. This system is also impervious to simple ECM, because it would use input from many different types of sensors. It would also make room for graphical effects of EWAR, such as greying out entire screen when being ECMed, or blurring ships out of range when Sensor Dampened.

It would not create unnecessary explanations such as "combination of an attractive magnetic force and repulsive electromechanical force" or the fact that ships carry lots of camera drones, which is extremely ineffective waste of cargo room in space-constrained environments such as starships. I can also think of several real life and in-game mechanisms that would make Camera Drones VERY ineffective:

  • Omnidirectional ECM to jamm the control signal from the ship to Camera Drones
  • Targeted ECM to jamm Camera Drone receivers on the ship
  • EMP smartbomb would instantly fry the electronics of any Camera Drone in range
  • Other types of smartbombs would shatter Camera Drones to pieces
  • Other crafts could launch a cloud of tiny drones programmed to target and destroy Camera Drones
  • The speed and range of Camera Drones would have to be almost infinite to accomodate the way we use them in game
  • Fuel? Energy source?
  • Magnetic forces do not work well on distances which we see in game (100 km; but when you zoom out as much as possible, you're watching your ship from nearly 300 km)

To sum up the above, the amount of technology needed to explain Camera Drone abilities and durability is higher than direct projection into visual cortex. Scientists are already able to tap into visual cortex to recover images directly from cats brain.

[youtube="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLb9EIiSyG8"]

A reverse process is proposed to project images into the brain of the blind by using retinal implants.

[youtube="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSdmWbItsvU"]

This is the technology which already exists today (although it is still years from being ready for clinical use; it is  challenging to transmit and process the amount of information necessary to create a high resolution image; retinal implant capable of processing this amount of information would dissipate enough heat to damage the surrounding tissue). But since New Eden's capsuleer pilots already have their brain wired with technology, visual cortex projection should be rather simple.

Dear CCP

The world of New Eden is one of the things that got me hooked with EVE for this long. Please, consider changing this piece of lore. EVE Online physics might be unreal (submarine vs Newtonian), but improving upon EVE's already great Intellectual Property should be one of the priorities. Now, who should I talk to about this? 😉

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