Parrot AR.Drone WiFi helicopter gets augmented reality iPhone control

Jan 5, 2010
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We primarily know Parrot as a purveyor of all things Bluetooth, but now the French company is segueing into remote controlled devices.  The Parrot AR.Drone is a quadricopter - i.e. a four-propellor helicopter - that's packed with WiFi for remote-control from an iPhone or iPod touch, two video cameras (one for auto-pilot, another for streaming birds-eye footage back to the pilot) and various sensors and gyroscopes.  Parrot are also releasing an SDK so that developers can create games and other software such as augmented reality (AR).

Multiple video demos after the cut

For instance, while the AR.Drone can be enjoyed as a standalone R/C toy, piloting it by tilting the iPod touch or iPhone as well as controlling altitude and other factors by on-screen buttons, Parrot will release with it an AR game allowing for remote in-air battles.  Two AR.Drone owners will be able to battle in the same virtual airspace, with each opponent seen on the iPod touch's display.  That way, gamers can compete even if they're in different countries, and then share footage recorded through the quadricopter's camera on a dedicated Parrot site.

Parrot claim to have used military-spec technologies - such as wind compensation - in the AR.Drone, making it perhaps one of the most complex R/C models we've seen to date.  No word on pricing (we're thinking it won't be cheap) but the Parrot AR.Drone will be available to consumers sometime in 2010, as well as part of a developers' pack.

Parrot AR.Drone flight demo:

Parrot AR.Drone prototype flying test:

Augmented Reality video games demo:

Parrot AR.Drone optical recognition demo:

Parrot AR.Drone front-camera object recognition:

Press Release:

The Parrot AR.Drone project:
When video games become reality…

Parrot AR.Drone, the first quadricopter using augmented reality and piloted by Wi-Fi.

Parrot, leader in wireless products for mobile phones, is unveiling the first quadricopter using augmented reality: Parrot AR.Drone.
With intuitive mobility and universal use, Parrot AR.Drone is piloted initially with an iPhone™ or iPod touch® and allows you to take a spectacular flying journey. In addition, this unique quadricopter can be part of a large number of video games in the real world.
Streaming video on the iPhone™ or iPod touch® screen enables you to pilot the AR.Drone as if you were sitting in the pilot’s seat; the image processing allows for the integration of real-time special effects of augmented reality…
‘Parrot AR.Drone’ project
The idea of the Parrot AR.Drone project is to create a working quadricopter with the best of today’s technologies, exploring new places through mixing video games and the real world. This is augmented reality.

Parrot AR.Drone: create dreams
“At Parrot, we have been developing wireless concepts for video games for 4 years. Our first project was a Bluetooth race car. We developed it, but I was not satisfied. A video game should contain part of a dream that I missed with the Bluetooth car,” explains Henri Seydoux, founder and CEO of Parrot. “It should fly! So I started with the idea of a quadricopter. With video cameras and a powerful computer, we have developed a very stable drone that is easy to control and flies like a dragon-fly.”
Parrot AR.Drone is the outcome of a dream: to invent a high-tech drone for kids and adults, whilst developing a new concept of video gaming using augmented reality. It is initially designed for iPhone™ and iPod touch®.

Parrot AR.Drone: a cutting-edge video quadricopter
Parrot AR.Drone is composed of a central cockpit which is surrounded by 4 propellers, each being driven by an engine. It offers amazing possibilities for piloting, excellent maneuverability and extraordinary stability.

The heart of AR.Drone contains all electronic components and two cameras:

· The first camera, under the structure, is connected to an Inertial Measurement Unit. Thanks to this unit, the AR.Drone is capable of measuring its speed and performing mind-blowing flights. PSP (Parrot Smart Piloting) technology also compensates for wind during outside flights. These technologies are usually used for professional and military applications, but have been adapted for the gaming universe for the first time.

· The second camera, at the front of the quadricopter, broadcasts and streams on the iPhone™ or iPod touch® screen, what the drone is seeing as if the player was in the pilot’s position. It plays a major role for video gaming, thanks to the use of augmented reality.

Parrot AR.Drone: intuitive piloting
The Parrot AR.Drone generates its own Wi-Fi network so you simply need to connect an iPhone™ or iPod touch® to turn it into a true piloting station.
An unseen mix of captors (wide angle camera and high speed camera, MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanicals Systems), 3 axes accelerometer, 3 axes gyro, ultrasound sensor) associated with a powerful computer makes the piloting easy and accessible even for the youngest or non-technologically savvy person.
Thanks to the accelerometer of the iPhone™ or iPod touch® that detects users’ movements, the AR.Drone is very easy to pilot by leaning the iPhone™ forward to move forward or sidewise to corner and change direction.
On the touch pad of the iPhone™, command buttons also indicate some actions such as rise, down, rotate, move back, move forward… Observing the AR.Drone obey each movement of their hands is an incredible experience for the player.

Parrot AR.Drone: imagination has no limits
Parrot AR.Drone is designed for flying inside and outside.
For flying inside, a hull surrounds the propellers and protects the quadricopter if it hits an obstacle. For outside flights, a shaped hull reduces the area to the wind for better maneuverability of the quadricopter.
Every flight with the AR.Drone will always be a new experience. Outside, the user will have to take into account the changing elements of the real environment, such as the wind, the sunshine, shadowed areas or any obstacles that appear.
Parrot AR.Drone is also offering an unprecedented multi-player possibility.
Thanks to augmented reality, it is possible to recreate an aerial fight between two quadricopters. The worlds of video gaming and radio controlled models collaborate for the first time, simultaneously evolving in both universes.

Parrot AR.Drone: an open development platform
Parrot intends to extend the possibilities of AR.Drone so the project is a development platform opened to game developers.
A Software Development Kit (SDK) is available today for the developers who want to create games for the AR.Drone by using the techniques of augmented reality enabled by the frontal camera. Developers just need to register on www.ardrone.org to download the SDK and contribute to the AR.Drone Open API platform.
Development kits, including a prototype of the drone, available soon, will be subject to acceptance of development projects by Parrot.
With AR.Drone, all kind of games can be created: shooting, adventure, races, arcade…

Parrot AR.Drone: a technological first
For the first time, a consumer product encompasses:
A quadricopter made in carbon fiber and high resistance PA66 plastic
MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) and video processing to ensure extremely intuitive piloting of a radio controlled object
Wi-Fi and video streaming to enable interfacing with an iPhone™ or iPod touch®
Images processing software for augmented reality

Parrot has worked for 15 years on wireless technologies. Engineering is the keystone of the work of Parrot and the R&D department of the company consists of 150 engineers.
Parrot maintains its investments in R&D to the highest level, with an important focus on the software and signal processing. Parrot develops complete products from the initial stage; software, electronics, design and also manufacturing are the daily work of the research department.

Note:
Parrot AR.Drone is today open to video games developers.
The quadricopter should be available for consumer in 2010.
A dedicated website will also enable owners of AR.Drone to be part of the AR.Drone community and to share their videos…


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