SAN JOSE, California — First unveiled at CES in January of this year, the Parrot AR.Drone is a flying wireless toy that’s the center of a new augmented reality game. It streams video and sends location information as it hovers and zips around, and you can control it with your iPhone or iPod Touch.
As you control it, you see the drone’s POV video stream on your phone’s screen. Tipping the phone in different ways makes the drone turn and fly around, as the software senses the iPhone’s accelerometer.
As if a remote-controlled helicopter isn’t cool enough: The Parrot drone’s control screen has cross hairs, and you can “shoot” at things you see on the screen. The drone detects tags that people have applied to inanimate objects, and as objects are tagged, they can be replaced on-screen by virtual objects. So, as you fly around, you can shoot at virtual killer robots that are layered over the real-world background video. You can also put two drones into battle mode and shoot at each other.
Martin Lefebure of Parrot, the company that makes the device, demonstrated the latest version of the drone on stage at the Where 2.0 conference here Wednesday. The thing flew around the room, and everyone in the audience was able to look up onto the big screen on stage, where they could see themselves waving at the drone’s video camera. Lefebure then did battle with some insect-like evil robots that were holding us hostage in the conference ballroom. Unfortunately, he got his ass handed to him.
Parrot first showed off its iPhone-controlled car — the first concept that eventually evolved into the Parrot — at the 2009 edition of Where 2.0.
The iPhone and the drone talk to each other over a standard wi-fi connection. It has a range of about 150 feet (it’s limited by the range of your wi-fi) and the battery lasts about 15 minutes.