Thursday, June 17, 2010

A novel application -- drone helicopter with streaming cameras merges real and virtual worlds

Parrot, a French company, demonstrated an iPhone-controlled drone helicopter ("quadricopter") at the Consumer Electronics Show.

As you see in this video, the iPhone is used to control the drone and to view streaming video from its on-board cameras.

This is a novel application, using the iPhone to control a physical object and augmenting reality by letting you see what the drone sees -- it blends the real and virtual worlds.

This demo used an iPhone, but Parrot promises to port the application to other phones and tablets -- their goal is to sell the drones.

A few caveats -- Parrot refused to speculate on the price, but my guess is that it will be pretty expensive since it requires a lot of computing and mechanical hardware. The iPhone and the drone use WiFi to communicate, which limits its range. Power requirements will also cap flight length.

Lest those caveats discourage you, recall that the Wright brothers first flight lasted 12 second and covered 120 feet. It only took 66 years to get from that flight to a safe return flight to the moon, and information technology improves faster than aviation technology.

What sorts of devices will you be controlling in five years? What sorts of cameras and censors will be feeding data to your portable device?