Is this the coolest toy around? A tiny drone that fits in the palm of your hand, can be controlled by gesture and shoots quality video. Well, yes, it is, but probably not for long. At five hundred dollars, and that’s before the extras that you’re almost certainly going to want, this isn’t exactly ‘a drone for the masses’ but it’s certainly a huge leap in that direction.
Controlling an airborne machine with the palm of your hand is awesome but before you get too carried away you need to remind yourself that this is still a technology in its infancy. You can launch DJI Spark from your hand and it will hover three feet above the ground, you can then use the palm of your hand to move it around with gesture control. If you wave your hand the drone will fly up and if you make a square with your thumbs and forefingers it will take a selfie or maybe it won’t because like I said, this technology is in its infancy and like any infant, it doesn’t always get things right. Any distance beyond ten feet and you may find that those hand gestures of yours are becoming increasingly frantic.
This may just be a Pokemon Go moment though, a moment when the possibilities of a new technology suddenly capture the public imagination. When machines make the transition from single sensor responses to a device which can read and respond to a complex series of gestures, then we will have ‘intelligent machines’ capable of reading a gesture language.
We’re already used to using gesture control with our phones, ‘iGest Gesture Launcher’ has been around a while, it enables you to create a gesture and associate it with an action. The partypoker mobile app allows players to place bets and flick cards with gestures neatly approximate to real life poker. The Halide app for iPhone is delighting users with its gesture control photography which turns an iPhone camera into a professional tool. These devices though are only deploying a fairly limited range of gesture vocabulary. They are still only a few steps on from the technology that enables you to turn on a light with a wave of your hand.
Car manufacturers have long been interested in the possibilities of gesture control, think how much safer it would be if you never had to look down at the dashboard, think what it could mean to disabled drivers. Google was quick to file a patent for gesture control for their Google cars and PSA Peugeot Citroen are developing a ‘time of flight camera’ for ‘precise recognition of finger movement for a full and extensive gestural grammar’. The DJI Spark is some way off being able to read that ‘full and extensive gestural grammar’ but like I said, this may be the moment when the potential of gesture control really hits the public consciousness and rudimentary though it may be the DJI Spark may do for gesture control what the Wright brothers did for aviation. Let’s hope so.