AI News, Parrot Unveils Jumping Robot and Wheeled Quadcopter [New Videos and Details]

Parrot Unveils Jumping Robot and Wheeled Quadcopter [New Videos and Details]

A few years back, the French companyParrotdecided that it would be sort of cool to start building robots.

This, with the assistance of a barometer, accelerometer, and gyro, enables the MiniDrone to consistently and reliably self-stabilize, such that if you take your hands off of the controller, it'll hover flawlessly all by itself.

For novice pilots (or lazy ones), the MiniDrone comes with a pair of (relatively) gigantic clip-on wheels that allow it todrive along the ground using thrust from the props.

I'm not sure where the 'sumo' bit comes from, but it's certainly quite a jumper: an actuated, spring-loaded tail can repeatedly launch the robot vertically, up to 80 cm in the air.

Sometimes these two-wheeled robots can be hard to drive, but a gyro and accelerometer help with steering a bit, allowing you to make very precise 90 degree turns and do all kinds of crazy acrobatics.

While Parrot hasn't yet set a price or specific release date for either of these robots (beyond sometime later this year), we're expecting them to be quite affordable (perhaps in the $US 100–200 range or lower), considering how Parrot managed to price the AR.Drone.

Parrot Mini Drone Jumping Sumo - White

It can jump up to 80 cm vertically or horizontally, move forward while hovering and clear its path with springs that can flick objects out of its way.

Spread its wheels for optimised grip at high speeds, or put it into compact mode for increased agility.

Choose its mood Boasting a strong personality, the Parrot Jumping Sumo rolls, slaloms, turns and jumps, and can also react with sounds and lights depending on its mood!

Immersion via the camera Equipped with an on-board, wide-angle camera streaming live video to your control screen, you can view the world from new angles 15 cm from the ground!

Parrot’s New MiniDrones Are an Entertaining But Mixed Bag

When you’re using the $159, Jumping Sumo or $99 Rolling Spider MiniDrones, it’s easy to forget all the time you’ll spend waiting for them to recharge.

Even with a spare battery, 8 minutes of battery life for the Rolling Spider and roughly 10-15 for the Jumping sumo doesn’t add up to the 1.5 hours it takes to charge each battery.

The problem is especially vexing for both drones since the only way you can charge the batteries is by placing them inside each one and running a USB cable from your computer (or wall charger) to the micro-USB port on each robot.

It’s a shame, really, because these robots are fun and they share many positive characteristics like faces with illuminated “eyes” that change color to let you know if the droids are connected and ready to fly or roll (you can add stickers to give them even more personality), the excellent, easy-to-use and free FreeFlight 3 software that runs on your smartphone or tablet (iOS and android) and responsiveness that easily outstrips their larger Parrot AR.Drone cousins.

It uses the new low-energy Bluetooth 4.0 (aka Bluetooth Smart), which allows the app and gadget to bypass the old Bluetooth handshake and connect directly through the app as soon as the drone is on and the app is ready.

The Rolling Spider MiniDrone can fly unadorned or you can attach a two large, but very light-weight wheels that cushion the drone if it hits the floor or a wall, but also let you fly/roll along walls and ceilings.

Parrot Mini Drone Rolling Spider Rolling Spider can hold still or respond to the slightest movement of my left thumb on the direction and altitude joystick stick and right thumb on thrust in the FreeFlight 3 app.

There are some boilerplate tricks like in-air forward and back flips and even a dive move that you really need some space – and height – to execute.

It has, essentially, the same setup as the AR.Drone: an ad hoc Wi-Fi connection, which means that, if your phone was using Wi-Fi to connect to the outside world, it will have to switch back to mobile broadband when you’re playing with Jumping Sumo.

Parrot Jumping Sumo Once you’re connected, the smartphone screen turns into a live video feed from Jumping Sumo’s point of view — the camera points out of the front.

If I held it in the center and tilted the phone around, I controlled direction, pulling my thumb forward and back controlled speed and forward and reverse.

At least Parrot’s AR.Drone has a full-size USB port and offers the option of recording lower-quality video over the ad hoc Wi-Fi connection and directly onto your smartphone or tablet.

Drones in depth

Donald Bell sits down with Henri Seydoux of Parrot and John Cherbini of 3D Robotics to discuss the present and future of consumer aerial drones at CES 2014

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