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.
Yeah. HypeWare for sure. The concept is cute but a quadcopter is not the platform for it. I hate to give these "inventors" any engineering feedback but here are a few issues with it.
1- 5 minute max fly time with current batteries (assuming they add camera and other sensors to the generic quadcopter in the photo :-)
2- Prop noise. Worse than you might think.
3- Peripheral sensing. It's great at a party until it backs into someone's eye.
4- Stability sensors. Put enough onboard to keep from crashing while target tracking and you are back up to, oh I don't know, an AR.Drone! It's hard to get around the power/physics of autonomous flight.
I can't believe that anyone is giving this vapourware product so much press. The quadcopter pizza delivery press release was more technically relevant!
Well, I'll defer to you on what's common in the invention business these days. Suffice it to say that I would be mortified to do what is apparently common practice these days -- sending out a press release without a working prototype and being unwilling to answer inquiries from the legitimate press.
As for the "springboard for discussion" argument, we're all imaginative enough that we can discuss the legitimate issues raised by a proposed technology in abstract terms without having to pretend someone has already invented it. If you don't like my warp drive analogy, perhaps a better one would be all the lively discussions out there these days about 3D printing of guns. Nobody, as far was we know, has yet actually "printed" a gun; I think the closest anyone's come is a plastic replica of an AR15 lower receiver, but the idea that it could be possible to print a gun seems to engender a lively discussion that goes all the way to how to regulate such a thing.
I'm happy to discuss the legal and ethical implications of a hypothetical autonomous photographic aerial robot. It's just that as an engineer, I don't have a lot of patience for people who are off trying to sell an idea before they've actually built the thing or for marketeers who put a retail price on it before they have a BOM or a release date.
We are talking about the 4th amendment here. But the 4th amendment has already been so tortured that the courts say it means that the mother's personal privacy trumps the baby's personal privacy. With this travesty already approved, I doubt if they care if someone looks in your back yard.
Now the 2nd amendment is being tortured to mean that you cannot bear arms.
We can see that concern for this technology is minor compared to our real problem.
D. Sherman, I couldn't disagree with you more. Yes, there's a ton of tech gadgetry out there. Yes, there's a lot of blather on the internet about all sorts of things. But you'd be surprised how many large, reputable companies who clearly exist and who make well-known products that also clearly exist don't return phone calls and emails. This one was covered by other reputable press, including IEEE Spectrum. Also, this is one in a class of machines that definitely do exist and that we've reported on before, which raise the legitimate issues discussed on this comments board, so your analogies with antimatter warp drives are nonsensical.
If a company with an allegedly innovative new product can't be bothered to answer questions from the press, then as far as I'm concerned their product doesn't exist. Anyone can cobble together a non-functional prototype, take a picture of it, and send out a press release, and plenty do. I expect a respectable trade magazine to vet these press releases and ignore the ones that are too far from reality. The alternative energy world, in particular, is well-populated with "mad geniuses" who claim to have invented something revolutionary that they can't talk about. The "tech gadgetry" world is getting to be almost as bad. At best, most of these things constitute a clever senior project from a respectable engineering school. At worst, they are frauds designed to fleece investors.
Sorry, but if the flying camera is real enough to have a price tag, it should be real enough to have someone in the company willing to talk to a reporter. If not, cool as it sounds, a serious trade magazine should not waste time "reporting" on it.
There's not even much point in discussing the social implications of this thing when it doesn't exist. One might as well talk about the significance of antimatter warp drives, the only difference being that a small helicopter camera platform with autopilot software is something that could actually be built. Which makes it all the more disappointing when someone sends out a press release apparently trying to shop the idea around, before they've even constructed a single functional prototype.
Now there's an idea for those posting comments about shooting these things down. Instead of a projectile weapon crank up the leaf blower - maybe you can blow the small device from your immediate vicinity, plus give the voyeur some motion sickness inducing images.
Technically this is a neat idea and would have been cool to have when I was videoing my kids playing ball. Unfortunately, in today's world where papparazzi get paid well to use high powered lenses to catch unsuspecting celebrities topless I see lots of bad stuff coming from it. The cat is out of the bag now though and it's only a matter of time before someone take advantage of the technology for ill use.