In some ways, selfie-snapping drones seem a natural progression from outstretched arms and ever-lengthening selfie sticks. It doesn't matter what kind of reach these tactics afford you, it will always pale in comparison to that of a flying camera. Roam-e is the latest drone to take aim at self-portraiture, and armed with facial recognition technology it is promised to always keep you in the frame.
The Roam-e from technology firm IoT Group is a cylindrical drone claimed to be similar in size to a 600-ml (20-oz) water bottle, with a diameter of 75 mm (2.95 in) at its widest point. It is designed to be compact and easily slid into a backpack or larger pocket for transport, much like the Sprite drone we covered last year. To this end, it also features collapsible propellors that fold in against its body.
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With a flight time of 20 minutes, the 500-g (1.1-lb) Roam-e is said to be easy to fly in that users can simply fling it into the air and it will start hovering at a user-determined distance. After pairing it with an iOS or Android device, the drone uses facial recognition technology to detect the user up to 25 m (82 ft) away, which then combines with a Follow Me tracking function to keep them in shot.
"You don't need a controller," Ian Duffell, Executive Director at IoT Group explains to Gizmag. "Once you do the facial recognition on the phone you just set the Roam-e to follow you at a given distance. It doesn't need to be tethered, it is tethered to your face."
This sounds simple enough, if not a little confronting, but does mean that the user will need to remain facing the drone for it to continually track them. In the event that they turn away, the drone will stay hovering in place.
The camera sits on a single-axis gimbal and shoots stills at five megapixels. Duffell tells us that it both records and streams video to the paired mobile device, but details on video resolution are not yet available. The drone runs on swappable batteries and is said to take two hours to charge.
Over the last year or so we have seen a number of drones designed to take selfies to new heights. This list includes the palm-sized Zano, the Nixie selfie-drone that can be worn like a bracelet when not in use and, more famously, the Lily drone that has amassed US$34 million worth of preorders.
While these have all taken different approaches to the same problem, one thing they all have in common is that you can't actually buy them yet. This makes it a little hard for anyone to vouch for their high-flying automated selfie skills, so until these things start to land in the hands of consumers it's probably a little early to go turfing your selfie stick.
But the Roam-e's time may come soon enough anyway, with Duffell telling us the company plans to start shipping in June or July. He says more technical details will also be available ahead of the launch and that the drone will be priced at US$250.
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