CES: Battling AR helicopter controlled by iPhone

Combine augmented reality, a helicopter and an iPhone and you get the AR Drone from France based Parrot Unveiled for the first time at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas the helicopter, or what the company calls a quadricopter has four fans allowing it to flying in all directions

It’s controlled over WiFi by an iPhone or iPod touch and makes full use of the phone’s accelerometer as tilting the phone controls the helicopter’s flight Under development for 4 years, the AR Drone has two cameras built in, one on the front and one on the bottom both of which can stream real time video back to the phone The chopper comes with two augmented reality games, one of which pits you against a fighter jet that you need to try and shoot Augmented reality is when there’s computer generated imagery added to a view of the physical world The idea is to explore a new area of video games

Video games that you do with things, video games that you do outside your computer display So this is why we have built this helicopter with a camera and the camera films the scene The camera is also used by a processor and it makes pattern recognition So one of the games can be playing one helicopter against another so it does the pattern recognition so you can shoot the other and get points and get advantages as a game In single player mode you play against the computer, but in two player mode you can play against a friend who controls his own copter

The AR Drone has a full on board computer and uses an ARM926 core processor and Linux It also has a 3 axis accelerometer, two gyroscopes and an ultrasound altimeter One of the interesting features of the AR Drone is it uses older technology developed for cellular phones It uses a cellular phone CPU, memory, sensors and it has a very powerful CPU as you have on a cell phone and it permits it to bring this level of flight quality, but also processing for the augmented reality The software running on the iPhone is open source so Parrot hopes that developers will create more games for the copter and adapt the software to run on other devices

Parrot declined to say when exactly the AR Drone would launch, only that it would be this year It also wouldn’t comment or even ballpark a potential sale price It could be pricey though, considering its features and components Reporting from CES 2010 in Las Vegas, I’m Nick Barber, IDG News Service