At this year’s CES, a little company named Zero Zero Robotics demonstrated a flying camera drone that hovers near you taking pictures and autonomously detects, follows and records your movements.
That selfie drone, called Hover Camera Passport, is now available and just picked up a huge backer in the form of Apple Inc. The smartphone giant has started exclusively selling the drone online and in its Apple stores in five countries.
The Hover Camera Passport is powered by internally-developed artificial intelligence that the company says allows consumers to operate the drone camera out of the box and works for both indoor and outdoor environments.
“We have designed, prototyped and developed both the hardware and software for Hover Camera Passport from scratch, which is something we’re proud of as many drones or flying cameras will use third party, open sourced software,” says MQ Wang, founder and CEO of Zero Zero Robotics in an interview with Electronics360. “Due to Hover Camera Passport’s unique, fully enclosed carbon fiber design, open source algorithms would not be capable of supporting the flight of this form factor.”
The in-house proprietary AI algorithms include simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM), which perceives and maps its environment from the front-facing camera to help it position itself in space, Wang says. Hover Camera Passport also features an optical flow algorithm that allows its 3 megapixel downward facing camera to capture photos of the ground at 100 fps. The face and body recognition algorithm allows the drone to find, track and follow users using deep learning with Convolutional Neural Network model that runs on the drone itself, not on servers. Other aspects of the AI include a proprietary flight control algorithm that enables flight despite the enclosed form factor and electronic image stabilization for capturing video.
The agreement with Apple is exclusive for the first two months and the company has had discussions with other channels but have yet to make any commitments. The drone is compatible with both iOs and Android operating systems but the latest update allows for compatibility with Apple's video editing software.
“Now your Mac device can recognize Hover Camera Passport immediately, allowing you to download video and photo content without separate software,” Wang says.
In addition to being available at Apple.com, it will be available in Apple stores in the United States, Canada, China, Hong Kong and the U.K. The Hover Camera Passport Apple-exclusive bundle is priced at $499.95 and includes the drone, two batteries, one charger, adapter and a carry bag.
The company plans to continue to update the firmware to the Hover Camera Passport as more modifications and improvements crop up as well as new features and a more complex artificial intelligence, Wang says.
“However, Zero Zero Robotics as a company isn’t just in the business of flying cameras,” Wang says. “As a robotics company, we envision leveraging our expertise in hardware and AI to ultimately help enhance people’s lives, and this format may come in all shapes and sizes—not only ones that fly.”