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Just occasionally, a call by a PR to "come and have a feed and see a new gadget on us" is something that is fun. Don't get me wrong; I am not at all suggesting all press and products are as dull as Eucla's night life (look it up on Google Earth), but some products such as hard disks and printers are just hard to get excited about no matter how good the food, the drink or the company.
Today, although short lived for me for reasons I'll explain later, was one of the fun ones!
When a nice PR lady sends you an email suggesting you might like to see a new Parrot - version "two-dot-oh" no less, I thought in my ignorance it was perhaps a John Cleese interview? I mean he has been around lately hasn't he?
But no, this Parrot (Parrot AR 2.0 for its full moniker, with AR an abbreviation for "Augmented Reality") is a variation on the current craze for remote controlled helicopters.
Ostensibly, it is a ring around 3/4 metre across that is segmented into 4 internal circles each containing a rotor blade driven by a motor. A full charge lasts around 12 minutes and it can be controlled from an iPad, iPhone of Android App. Although this description sounds a bit rough, as the video and photos show, it is in fact very elegant in its design.
And boy does it perform in the hands of a skilled operator. Spectacularly!
The Parrot has a range as wide as the WiFi on your controlling device (accepted as 50 metres as a rule of thumb) and can spin, flip, accelerate, swoosh and generally act just as a flying saucer on steroids and red cordial would. If the Parrot does go out range it will simply stop and hover and after a while, if not retrieved or gets back in range, will start to feel neglected and delicately hover safely down to the ground.
If this happens to be wet, or even a pond or the ocean, the Parrot will float, and while not waterproof per se, all the electricity bits have been made super water resistant.
But there is a party piece as well. Built into the Parrot is a Hi-def (720 / 30 frames/sec H.264 compliant) video camera that streams video straight back to the iPad or whatnot. And if you do require for some reason to keep storage "on board" so to speak, there is a USB 2.0 slot to accept a memory stick.
The controlling App is clever too, with footage able to be sent straight to YouTube among its many other functions such as tutorials, playback, a Parrot 2.0 "finder" that shows a map of the world and the current location of all other working Parrots. The system also encourages "pilots" to share footage.
The possibilities of the Parrot AR 2.0 are endless from a sophisticated toy to a surveillance unit to a remote camera for film making. Our charming French host from the parent company in France assured us that with a bit of practice, anyone could reach his level of Biggles dexterity which was seriously impressive!
At $349.95, it might be a slightly expensive toy for some, but for others it will fill a need - I can see a few in my sphere of videography in motor sport and fishing etc.
I have to wait a few weeks to get a demo unit I can play with - but I was the first in the queue I assure you. I can't wait! Wonder if they'll want it back?
Oh and the downside. The host hotel for the event suggested I park "over the road" which was very convenient as it was perssssistently raining all day. What was not immediately obvious was that the parking fee was nearly $60 for an hour. Considering I paid $18 for 2 hours at a station just up the road the day before, I was somewhat miffed to such a Sydney CBD "Welcome Back". Hence the short lived experience with the Parrot. I wasn't going to risk a second hour!
Seriously though, have a look at the Parrot (or at this stage anyway the video). You'll want one too.
Any drawbacks? It only appears to come in black. That's what colour correction is for though.
David is the owner and publisher of Australian Videocamera. He has a background in media dating back to 1979 when he first got involved with photojournalism in motorsport, and went from there into technology via a 5 year stint with Tandy Computers.
Moving back to WA, David wrote scripts for Computer Television for video training for the just released Windows and Office 95 among others, and was then lured to Sydney to create web sites for the newly commercial Internet in 1995, building hundreds of sites under contract to OzEmail including Coates Hire, Hertz Queensland, John Williamson, the NSW Board of Studies and many, many more.
David can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org
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