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iPhone-Controlled Helicopter With AR Games 51

andylim writes "Parrot has unveiled a remote-controlled helicopter that boasts augmented reality games. The helicopter is controlled using an iPhone or iPod Touch's accelerometer and touchscreen. There's a camera on the front of the helicopter, which you can use to navigate and to play augmented reality games, including a game that involves fighting a gigantic robot."
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iPhone-Controlled Helicopter With AR Games

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  • An iPod? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by c0mpliant ( 1516433 )
    Seriously, if other games controls on the iPod are anything to go by, I wouldn't want to be controlling a helicopter with spinning rotor blades, with an iPod
    • by RobVB ( 1566105 )
      Now imagine a drunk person who REALLY wants to fly a helicopter.
    • Re:An iPod? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by fractoid ( 1076465 ) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @05:13AM (#30667084) Homepage
      It seems pretty stable from the video. I wonder how well this electronically-stabilised-quadricopter technology would scale to, say, human-sized? :D I did a bit of research on blade loadings and suchforth and it seems that a helicopter weighing 200kg with pilot would need 30-40kW to lift off, can anyone with more experience confirm or deny? I'd love to see something with the same format but, say, 2m long, powered by nanophosphate lithium batteries with a 5-10min flight time.

      Of course the AR stuff is also cool. I bet there's a market for that... run a service where your users print a specific patterned logo in a print ad, register it with your site, and on a phone running the right application the pattern loads a video or even 3D virtual animated object anchored to the logo.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        You hit the nail on the head: the problem is power/weight. Looking at the specs http://www.parrot.com/parrot-ar-drone/en/how-does-it-work#start/ [parrot.com] it looks like the batteries are expensive lithium-ion-polymer with "15 minutes battery autonomy", which I assume is a fancy way of saying that you get 15 minutes run flying time between recharging.

        • by nietsch ( 112711 )

          that is quite long actually. Discharge rates of 10 or 20C are not uncommon. That leaves you 6 or 3 minutes of fun. These kind of batteries are pretty cheap, so you can just put in a fresh battery and go fly again. But that leaves of something important: most of the video is an obvious fake animation, not the real thing flying. Adding all this stuff like wifi and a camera is feasible, but not for a toy. Maybe they have a real product, but I want to see some real footage from the cam while flying. In the vide

        • "Expensive" LiPo batteries? You don't know what you're talking about, check the prices at www.hobbyking.com and I think you'll be surprised how cheap they have become in the last year.

          As with most LiPo powered RC gear, just buy multiple sets of batteries and a good balancing charger.

          • Wow, they have come down a lot! I guess no-one wants those lame old LiPolys now that cool new LiFePO4 ones are in town.

            Would 'most LiPo powered RC gear'? include, say... Special Circumstances drones? ;)
            • The drones are allready there. You can put an R/C plane in the air in 1 hr for about $200 to take ariel video.

              Spend ~700 you can get FPV AV and still pics and a gyro stabalized plane.

              Spend ~900 and you can get FPV, and data logging including path traveled, altitude, airspeed, and gps.

              Spend 1K (that's most of our payechecks) and you can get all the above with waypoints and return to home.

              Spend just another hundred more, and you can power that setup for over 45 min. in the air. Oh, and it's silent. Next

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Stability is mainly a problem for small, toy-sized craft. Another reason why multiple rotors are used is so that they can cancel out each others torque, so you don't need a tail-rotor. Personal aircraft similar to what you described have been made like these
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VZ-1_Pawnee [wikipedia.org]
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SoloTrek_XFV [wikipedia.org]

        They obviously don't run on batteries. I don't know what the largest battery-powered craft ever made is, but even for model planes they were totally impractical just a few y

        • Well, I did come across this [hecopter.com] strange contraption. Basically a swarm of bees carrying a chair, except each bee is a cordless drill and they're strapped to a grid. :P
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by goodmanj ( 234846 )

          for model planes they were totally impractical just a few years ago.

          Not true anymore. One of the side effects of the cell phone revolution is that their high-tech batteries and the micro-motors that make the phone vibrate allow you to build some great electric aircraft.

          http://www.ezonemag.com/ [ezonemag.com]

          • I can't help thinking that the "just a few years ago" clause implied understanding that, as you say, this has now changed.

            These guys [sonexaircraft.com] seem to be pretty happy with the basic idea of a Cessna-scale light plane powered by lithium batteries. And I so very much want one.
      • I did my doctoral thesis on quadrotors - specifically large quadrotors. The issues involved actually extend beyond thrust/weight ratio. For this kind of fixed-pitch rotor, the maximum size is actually dictated by the ability to speed up and slow down the rotor to affect pitch and roll motion, and thus stabilise the aircraft in the air. It's exceptionally hard to build a vehicle much larger than 10 kg with that rotor arrangement.

        If you move to collective control, then you can make your rotor arbitrarily
      • For a 200-kg copter, 30-40 kW sounds about right from my calculations too. Your average top-of-the-line Li-ion battery has a specific power density of 1000 W/kg and 200 W-h/kg: 40 kg of batteries would give you enough power to lift off and 12 minutes of flight time.

        Now, the only problem is fitting four electric motors with 13 horsepower each, power electronics, and a carbon composite frame into the remaining 60 kg...

        Oh, and figuring out how to not die when the batteries run out.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tolan-b ( 230077 )

      The default software comes for iPhone/iPod but they've published an API and open sourced the demos. Good on them, this thing has great potential, hope it doesn't cost too much :)

  • by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcr.mac@com> on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @05:40AM (#30667190) Journal

    Once that device has a five-mile range and can carry a pizza and a six-pack, its market potential is enormous.


    • Once that device has a five-mile range and can carry a pizza and a six-pack, its market potential is enormous.

      It wouldn't be long before someone strapped a gun and/or bomb to something like that.

      • So? Some sick fucks strapped bombs and guns on airplanes, does that mean we shouldn't have invented them?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by jcr ( 53032 )

        People have already filled cars and trucks up with far more explosive power than you could put aboard a flying delivery droid.

        Anyhow, since the government has armed UAVs, civilians should, too. There's a reason why our constitution prohibits the government from having a monopoly on weapons.


        • I think one of these could be flown into a restricted area more easily.
          10 of these is still cheaper than a car. And safer to use, as you don't have to blow yourself up with it.

    • by Threni ( 635302 )

      Or explosives/anthrax etc. Coming soon to a government building near you!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Yep its what the US does best:

      • Music
      • Microcode
      • High speed pizza delivery
  • Video Latency (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Plazmid ( 1132467 ) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @05:42AM (#30667206)
    Now the question is, is the video coming out of this thing in real time or near real time(laggy)? Soldiers testing man portable reconnaissance UAVs found the latency of near-real time video to be extremely annoying....
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      My company worked on this project as an external contractor.

      We've done the AR software embedded in the drone, as well as the Robot Fighting demo on the iPhone.

      I can say that for the moment the video stream is not perfect, and quite annoying for a quality AR experience.

      But this project will not be sold until several months, I hope it will be improved.

      • How did you do the AR? I thought Apple didn't allow anyone to tap the video stream which is why most AR apps are just video overlays. I want to see more cool AR games! :)

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          The video stream is processed on the drone before being sent to the iPhone.

          The pose estimation (3D matrices) is sent along the navigation and control data.

          We also hope to see more AR games on the iPhone, but currently Apple is locking the real time video processing...

          But there are other AR capable devices out there :)

          You can see some demos of our work on our blog :


          and here


          • First of all, thanks for the information. It's always cool to get the behind the scenes look. Second, why post AC when you then link back to your company?
      • by Tacvek ( 948259 )

        I'm just a bit confused about this. The Iphone controled UAV aspect makes perfect sense. But what is with adding AR games on top? Sure some limited AR-like features make sense, modeling the HUD overlays that a pilot would use. But I would think adding an AR game onto the copter would just make things too complicated.

        I mean an AR game like the zombie game that was part of marketing for some phone chipset several months back was interesting and made sense. It used the camera to allow quick and accurate assess

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @06:23AM (#30667422)


    I'm the boss of the company which created the computer vision software embedded in the drone, and also the Augmented Reality game demo on the iPhone.

    You can check it out here :

    I have to post it here, 'cause they don't seem to credit us for our hard work...

  • Cars (Score:2, Interesting)

    Back when I was a kid, I never understood why they could make a game like gameboy camera, but they couldn't trade out that camera for an antenna connected to a car with a camera on it.

    I suppose we still don't have it thanks to privacy concerns, but it would be so badass.

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      Back when I was a kid, I never understood why they could make a game like gameboy camera, but they couldn't trade out that camera for an antenna connected to a car with a camera on it.

      I suppose we still don't have it thanks to privacy concerns, but it would be so badass.

      Well, you can get RC vehicles with cameras - cars and planes are popular. The car ones are usually with a separate wireless camera/receiver combination. The airplane ones usually are part of sophisticated avionics so they can overlay instrum

  • WIFI range?! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by An anonymous Frank ( 559486 ) <frank AT harrystotle DOT com> on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @09:32AM (#30668604) Homepage

    I'm having trouble finding what I think is the essential stat: (battery life is 15 minutes, but) what is the wifi range?

    • by mgblst ( 80109 )

      Price would be good as well. Also availability, which is not talked about at all on their stupid company page.

  • Oh, crap. There's a giant robot attacking our secret outposts and we're resorting to recruiting Enders.

In less than a century, computers will be making substantial progress on ... the overriding problem of war and peace. -- James Slagle