Look how happy I am in that photo below. Or am I scared? It's hard to tell. Selfie technology just took a new turn, and I'm evidently not quite sure what to make of it. The source of the photo is Zero Zero's Hover Camera. It's a foldable, lightweight, 4K camera drone that we've seen before. The new trick that helped take this picture is that I just threw the drone up in the air. It then turned around until it recognized me (passing two colleagues along the way), and I waved at it. Boom: awkward selfie.
Hover Camera could already recognize and follow a target. Previously you had to use the companion app on your phone and pick out the subject you wanted to follow on-screen. With the new feature, you essentially register your face via the app once, and then you can forget about the phone. The next time you launch Hover Camera, it will fly in place, turning around until it spots you. Once it has you locked, it'll follow you as before. To grab a selfie, raise your hand until the front LED flashes and gives you a three count.
We've seen selfie drones before, and visual recognition is becoming a more popular way of tracking subjects than GPS. Using the camera to track isn't always as dependable as GPS , but it does solve a few problems. Namely, there's no need for a separate GPS device (or phone) and one less thing to charge, and your chosen target is easier to keep in the center of the shot (GPS doesn't always exactly know where you are, but obviously the camera does).
While Zero Zero's working hard to improve the Hover Camera and keep it ahead of similar products like Dobby (or Kimon), the pocket-friendly drone category still faces other limitations. In general, battery life is fairly short. Expect about 10 minutes of airtime from Hover Camera. With a charge time of about 40 minutes, though, it won't be long until you're back in the air again.
Perhaps a more significant limitation is the camera itself. Most of the small drones I've tested have cameras comparable to those you'd find in a midrange phone. Zero Zero's 13-megapixel shooter isn't too bad -- images come out looking pretty nice -- but it's all still a long way from the pin-sharp goodness you'd get out of a Phantom 4 Pro or a GoPro.
There are also general challenges with cramming a lot of software smarts into a small form factor. In my brief demo at the convention center here in Las Vegas, the company representative experienced a few minor limitations due to the beta version of the app. Many of these should be sorted by the time the update rolls out in the next few weeks though. At the least, it's nice to see an existing product getting care and attention after its release.
But at $599, the Hover Camera doesn't come cheap, so let's hope these new features keep on coming.Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2017.