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Parrot A.R. Drone Makes Video Games Real and Exciting

A.R. Drone Makes Video Games Real and Exciting
One of the most original and exciting products making its debut at CES is undoubtedly the A.R. Drone from Parrot. The augmented reality gaming platform incorporates a remote controlled helicopter and a controller app for the iPhone. (One of the engineers on the project told us that it will be coming to other platforms, too.) We decided to head to Parrot's tent outside the Las Vegas Convention Center to get some of the nitty-gritty details, and, of course, to play with the toy ourselves.

First, you need to know that the A.R. Drone is not an augmented reality game in itself. Parrot has developed it as a platform around which other companies can build games. The helicopter sports a front-facing camera that feeds video to your iPhone or iPod touch, and a down-facing camera that (in conjunction with a gyroscope and accelerometer) helps to keep the helicopter stabilized. Parrot happily demonstrated this latter fact to us by smacking it.

The software side of the equation is pretty polished looking already. A sleek, fighter-pilot-style HUD is layered over the streaming video, providing controls for altitude and rotation, and a button to activate the accelerometer controls. Holding the accelerometer button allows you to control the helicopter's movements by tilting your iPhone. There's a bit of a learning curve to the controls, though, and it's easy to get disoriented if you're facing a different direction than the camera.

There are still some bugs to work out. The drone flew out of control on us at one point, and the stated battery life of 15 minutes is disappointing. Still, the A.R. Drone is one of the most exciting things out of this year's CES, and you can expect to see it on store shelves the first half of the year at a yet to be determined price.

Tags: a.r. drone, A.r.Drone, ar, ar drone, ArDrone, augmented reality, AugmentedReality, parrot, top