Parrot to launch an iPhone-controlled helicopter

This will probably be one of the more compelling augmented reality gaming experiences around this year.

A French company Parrot is demoing a remotely-controlled helicopter in Las Vegas during CES this week that flies depending on how you tilt your iPhone. I played with the helicopter last month and it was quite responsive — it could change altitude, fly forward and turn around. You could tilt your iPhone forward to send it ahead, or even lift a finger to get it to drop a few feet. The drone has four propellers that stabilize it and help it tilt back and forth. There’s are two cameras attached to the drone, so you can see on your iPhone what’s ahead of or below the helicopter. (Here’s a picture Dean Takahashi took of the helicopter in action).

Parrot is releasing an software development kit, so that others can create games off the technology. The most obvious apps would be shooting or flight simulation games. At the time I played with it, the iPhone viewfinder just showed me a raw feed from the drone’s camera, but you could imagine overlaying visuals of other virtual planes or robots to battle. The company hasn’t nailed down pricing for the device, but it may come in at around $300 to 400. The point of the CES demo is to attract an energized developer community to tinker with innovative gaming ideas. The date for the full consumer launch isn’t settled yet.

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