Servo Magazine ( June 2016 )
Of all the products introduced at CES 2016 in Las Vegas, at the top of my want list is the Lily Camera (www.lily.camera). It’s the equivalent of a selfie-stick crossed with a drone and high resolution video camera. Toss a tracking disc/microphone in your pocket and toss the quadcopter drone in the air, and you have a robotic flying super-selfie camera that tracks your every move. What’s more — unlike most quadcopters fitted with GoPro cameras — this one also records sound through the tracking disc.
The concept of a drone capable of tracking a particular user isn’t new. Sci-Fi movies have featured such drones for decades. Moreover, in April 2015, a quadcopter enthusiast made the news by using his drone to follow his eight year old daughter to school in the morning.
The Lily camera is an off-the-shelf product. It’s not perfect, but it does have some notable features, including the ability to hover over and follow a subject. One of the key features/limitations of the camera is the use of a sealed battery system. As such, there’s no changing the battery in the field. When the battery is discharged, you simply plug the unit into the charger. The benefit of the closed system is that it’s watertight. The downside is obvious: After a few minutes of picture taking, the unit is dead weight until you get to a charger.
Another feature/benefit of the Lily camera is the working environment. I see it as perfect for single users snowboarding down a sparsely populated mountaintop, for example. Eeven if the battery could last several hours, I don’t see the Lily camera tracking a runner in, say, the Boston Marathon. There’s simply too much risk of hurting a fellow runner or losing the $990 camera system on the asphalt when the battery dies.
An obvious market/application for the Lily Camera is personal training feedback, whether the user is a runner or someone on the college or high school track or football team. A real estate agent could use the drone during an outside walk-around on a property for sale. A worried father could, I suppose, use the Lilly to follow his eight year old daughter to school.
Throughout this editorial, I’ve been careful to refer to the Lily as a camera/camera system and not as a drone. I think the distinction is an important one. Thinking of a flying camera is a mind expanding experience, and one that appeals to more than robotics enthusiasts.
If drones are going to really take off in the market place, they have to appeal to more than robotics types. If that means being more creative with naming conventions, then so be it. SV