American in Spain

Synchronized Kites in Laredo

September 26, 2011

Synchronized Kite Flying ThumbnailWhen I was sitting on the beach yesterday, I noticed something off in the distance out of the corner of my eye. In a split second, my unconscious pattern recognition neurons decided I'd seen a flock of birds. After several seconds of gazing at the phenomenon a kilometer down the beach, I'd determined that they were too big to be birds, and the flying was too orderly. They must be kites, my brain suggested, They were flying in perfect formation, up, down, swooping, soaring, diving... What they really reminded me of was Boids, the artificial intelligence algorithm – one of my favorites! – that demonstrates how lifelike natural flocking behavior can be mimicked with very, very few lines of code. I asked, and was granted, permission to abandon my family unit to walk down the beach to capture this phenomenon on video. When I was about halfway there, there was a midair collision and the kites spent about ten minutes on the ground getting sorted out, allowing me to choose the best viewing angle. Soon, they were off again! Each kite had a driver (kiter?), and then there was another person shouting orders and generally directing them where to go. As they launched, he shouted, "Uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis, siete!" as each one took off. You can hear this in the video.

Watching them was mesmerizing. They were flying the entire two hours we were at the beach.

I love discovering new ways that humans can be creative and passionate about something. Of course I knew as soon as I stopped recording that there would be tons of videos on YouTube of synchronized kites, and sure enough, there are.

Cool, huh?