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Wristwatch Drones May Be the Future of Wearable Technology

Phantom-3-Drone-beach-OceanA small spy drone that can be carried around on your wrist and sent flying within seconds might seem like a gadget reserved for Batman or James Bond movies, but such a product is currently being worked on and is nearing project completion.

The tiny flying machine is called Nixie and was invented by a Google program manager working together with a Stanford Ph.D. The design allows it to be worn in a manner similar to a slap bracelet and the device weighs just over 1.6 oz, yet is capable of capturing images in full HD. The quadcopter can be controlled from a smartphone, just like many other drones.

Jelena Jovanovic and Christoph Kohstall, the duo of visionaries behind the Nixie project, have said that they started working on a wearable drone in an effort to make taking aerial photos and videos more practical in a variety of contexts. Many individuals who enjoy activities like mountain climbing, biking and kayaking can capture some amazing moments to share with the world if they had a drone filming overhead, but most products on today’s market would be too bulky to carry around in these situations and need to be transported with a lot of care to prevent damage.

Nixie is expected to have impressive functions that will set it apart from other drones currently offered. Several operating modes are going to be coded in the tiny quadcopter. “Boomerang” will let the drone fly to a specified point away from the operator, snap a photo and then return, “Panorama” takes 360 degree aerial photos, “Hover” allows it to film or photograph anything from a fixed location in the air, while the “Follow Me” mode is expected to be the most popular with amateur athletes and performers, as it uses motion detection hardware and software to follow the operator around when they’re on the move.

How the Project Came to Life

Kohstall became interested in drones after receiving a quadcopter as a Christmas gift last year. As a natural tinkerer, he didn’t limit himself to just piloting the drone. He quickly started studying how drones work, what their drawbacks are and how to overcome problems common to today’s models. One of his earlier innovations include building a drone prototype that had the ability to dive and reemerge from water after finding out that most drones that crash land on water simply sink.

He then teamed up with Jovanovic and both asked friends and colleagues who operated drones before for ideas on what could be done to improve them. Most drone owners complained that while quadcopters can be fun to fly, many come with needlessly complex user interfaces and are too heavy to comfortably carry around on a regular basis.

The two inventors then began experimenting with wearable drone technology by attaching propellers to eye glasses and fitting them with a camera, allowing the drone to be deployed within seconds to capture aerial shots. Their next idea was a flying smartwatch, which led to them beginning work on Nixie.

Can Nixie Actually Succeed as a Consumer Product?

Although Nixie is certainly a huge step forward in both drone and wearable electronics, some are left to wonder whether it has a chance to become a successful product among its target audience. Prototypes constructed so far have proven that Nixie can actually fly like any other quadcopter. However, they have a rough appearance and aren’t yet durable enough to be launched as a commercial product. The control software and algorithms will also need to be finely tuned to ensure it will work as expected under a variety of conditions.

Giving the wearable drone a more polished look may seem easy, but the team is still testing materials that would make it lightweight and flexible as intended, but also highly durable. As both team members have a lot of practical experience building new gadgets and overcoming associated difficulties, many in the technology sector believe that Nixie stands a strong chance of being brought to the market in the near future.

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