Parrot AR.Drone Revealed at E3

Patrick Nosker June 15, 2010 0

We all know what the Wii did.  Nintendo decided to forgo the trend of gaming that was essentially a hardware pissing contest.  Instead of throwing in faster GPUs and CPUs it decided to change the way games are played.  Today, Parrot has done the exact same thing, except it has taken it to an entirely new level.  At the E3 Expo, Parrot revealed what the futuristic and veiled AR.Drone could do as well as it's price.  While many speculated that it was going to be a very cool toy and RC airplane, few expected that it would be what amounts to a videogame console all on its own.  In Parrot's world, the AR.Drone is the console and the iPhone (or other to-be-supported control systems) would be the TV.

Let's first see what the AR.Drone was before the news: The oddly shaped device is a quadricopter airplane with a built in Wi-Fi device.  It features two video cameras that you can view on an iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.  Essentially, it's a very cool spy plane, potential video camera, or toy.  An interesting concept is that the AR.Drone could be used to replace what used to require expensive helicopter footage to film.  You can fly it around a house and frighten people by hovering close to them all while watching their expressions.

What do we know now?  Well, the AR.Drone acts as a Wi-Fi access point allowing your device to connect even without a network.  There are two modes: Ace and Beginner, which allows anyone to pilot it.  It lifts itself off the ground all by itself and waits for you to command it.  When you're all done, it lands itself too.  

While in flight, the forward camera's video feed is processed and can be modified for augmented reality applications.  The bottom camera is connected to the inertial measurement system to calculate unit speed and wind turbulence in order to keep control.  

So, you must be thinking that the AR.Drone is a cool toy, but how could this even be compared to the Wii?  Well, not only is the AR.Drone an awesome toy, but it's also a very interesting idea on video games.  With the high level of video processing, it is possible to turn the machine into a tool to create custom environments for gaming.  imagine the video feed from the AR.Drone having a superimposed WWII battlefield.  With another AR.Drone, a Spitfire could be imposed on top.  An epic WWII battle ensues on your screen.  Dodging bullets, you make the AR.Drone buzz quickly to the other side of the room where the coffee table appears to be a foreign air strip.  You drop the bombs, the airstrip is destroyed, and you fly back home.

If that sounds amazing to you, that's what you get with the AR.Drone's AR.FlyingAce program (well– hopefully).  A similar but different game is the product of AR.Dronegate, which uses two tags that are included with the drone.

Much like the XBOX 360's customizations, the AR.Drone can also be customized.  Different hulls are available to give your own AR.Drone your own touch.  With 450 registered developers, you can be sure that there will be LOTS of  new and exciting games that today would seem almost ridiculous.  

We will be sure to provide updates and will hopefully have the opportunity to check one out for ourselves in the near future.  Expect it to cost $299 and games to cost around $3.  All-in-all, this could either be the continuation of a video game revolution, or it could be a niche product.  Either way, it looks pretty freakin' awesome.

[Parrot AR.Drone]

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