For a suggested retail price of $49, you will be able to ensure every move you make is captured on video. The palm-sized camera MeCam under development at Always Innovating Inc. will follow you around and take videos of you and your friends. You will be able to post these videos to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or any other social media site.
Always Innovating calls the MeCam a "self-video minicopter" in the video below. The camera can be operated by voice command, or it can be programmed to hover around you automatically. It has two autopilot algorithms and a Morpho Inc. video stabilizer. You upload video by streaming it to a smartphone or tablet.
The palm-sized MeCam, based on open-source software, will follow you around and shoot video. (Source: Always Innovating)
Details about the hardware are sketchy. Always Innovating says on its website that the MeCam has 14 sensors and three stabilization algorithms, offers "one-click true panorama," and works without a remote. The company did not respond to our requests for interviews or information.
In a press release unveiling the device in January, Always Innovating says the MeCam is run by a Cortex-A9 SoC. This ARM-based, low-power processor comes with up to four cores. The release doesn't says how many cores the device uses, but it does say the SoC module runs at anywhere from 1.0GHz to 1.5GHz, depending on configuration. That's a lot faster than the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 CPU, a measly 468MHz ARM9. The Cortex-A9 SoC module also includes 1Gbyte of RAM, an SD card, Bluetooth, and both 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi.
But that's just the hardware. What really piqued my interest is the fact that the MeCam uses open-source Linux-based software. That seems a lot like the robot operating system we discussed in May. Always Innovating says on its webiste that it's not going to manufacture the MeCam. Instead, it is licensing "the device and its core module." If I were in robotics, I'd like to see what I could do with open-source software (especially a robot operating system) and a tiny quadricopter design platform. Of course, it depends on the licensing cost.
Wow, that is quite an invention. Personally, I'm not sure my life is interesting enough for this sort of thing (although I guess that depends on your definition of "interesting") but I am sure the new generation of young people who are comfortable sharing every detail of their life with their friends online will love this product. It's like a flying Go-Pro on steroids!
Al, I'm interested in what else it could be used for as a design platform. Although it's small and cheap, there are reasons for this. First, Parrot's iPad-controlled flying video game AR.Drone 2.0 http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=238273 costs about $300 and is well-loaded with cameras, accelerometers and gyrometers, and WiFi communication. Second, many of the flying robot prototypes http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&doc_id=249645 the military and others are investigating are based on hobby machine platforms, the volumes of which have driven down component price/performance ratios. And third, quadrotors, also called quadricopters or ornithopters, have been adopted as a design platform for a wide range of tasks, often performed in swarms by devices that don't look much bigger or more accomplished than the MeCam.
Chuck, that sounds like a much better idea than a flying paparazzo...I was thinking also that a military application might be good, or other types of surveillance (although not where they might be people around, as they would probably notice a flying camera buzzing about!). And what Ann said about it being a design platform for other applications actually makes more sense than what it was actually designed for. Although I'm sure some people will find this quite cool to have their personal paparazzo shadowing them. :)
Chuck, Maybe I'm caught up in the marketing hype but I like the idea of this as a consumer product: the MeCam. I can definitely see this flying around the house or office, "spying" on friends, family and co-workers. At $49, the price point is not that bad especially if it flies well. The military market is already full of this kind of equipment and they only want the best.
Lets be realistic: Youtube is full of ox-droppings, and this can only contribute more of the same. In the real world, this device won't be used for serious purposes. The first place I would expect this gimmick to be put to use is in the womens locker room.