Parrot AR.Drone: Crying out for your mobile development attention!

Whenever I’m briefing device manufacturers — you know, standing in front of 30 product managers and jumping up in down in front of a PowerPoint — I always make the point that they need to make their devices cool. If you’re Apple, this happens automatically — but if you’re anyone else, you have to work at it. Because people create really cool things for the iPhone. Here’s an example:

The Parrot AR.Drone, the darling of this year’s CES, is a super, super example of a device that will have millions of people thinking, ‘shit, I really need to get an iPhone‘.

Got an iPhone? (Or an iPod Touch?)

Good! Yes, you too can control a mini quadricopter device from your iPhone.

I kid ye not.

Have a look at this:

That there is a helicopter-style flying Drone, complete with on-board camera and super-genius computer to make the thing hover, take off, land and otherwise make every male within 20ft WANT one. Immediately.

Here’s how it works: The Drone creates a WiFi network that you connect your iPhone to. Doing so gives you control over the Drone’s movements. It’ll take off and hover at 1 metre height whilst it waits for your instructions. If someone bumps into it or pushes it away, it’s on-board gadgetry will stabilise it and keep it hovering whilst you feel like a Prince Among Men as you get your flying googles on.

To fly the device you simply move your phone about. The Drone’s app (that you’re running on the iPhone) interprets your movements and translates them into flying instructions. On the app, you get a real-time video feed from the on-board camera that you can use to guide the device when you can’t see it. So you could theoretically use this at the office to really wind up your colleagues in the next room without leaving your desk. Genius!

You get 15 minutes flying time from one charge.

And now let’s talk about augmented reality.

Yes, I shit ye not. Because you’re being fed back a live video image of what the Drone is seeing, the iPhone app can overlay that with all manner of different games. For example, the supplied app will allow you to fight and blow up other virtual Drones.

Or if you’d like to get sexy, you can actually do a multiplayer mode — you can recreate an aerial fight between two Drones, by using your virtual canon and missiles to (virtually) shoot down your friend’s Drone. Love it. Those are just some sample applications. You can sign-up and develop some iPhone/iPod Touch applications to interface with the Drone. I can’t begin to imagine the possibilities!

So if you’re an iPhone developer, you should immediately go and get a Drone prototype (there are going to be a limited number available from Feb 15th) and start developing super-shit-hot augmented reality apps.

Fantastic. I will be buying one of these. Will you?

Here’s a video of the Drone in action…

And the Parrot/Drone site? It’s here.

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

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