Preterion's blog

Or where to find some useful info and facts about IT

Answer the bloody phone, your drone is calling!

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What? You don’t think this may be what you hear from your smartphone someday soon? It may be from your virtual personal assistant notifying you that there’s an incoming call from… your flying drone in charge of the security of your backyard, who just detected that your autonomous lawn mower got entangled in the bush and is emitting alert noises… Or something along these lines…

My point is, we’re living times of great change, and it’s all exciting – I wish I had the time to delve in the ocean of technology news and learn about everything, but alas… one must focus on building a business empire once in a while, no? Just kidding… I’m (almost) perfectly happy with what I do and have for now 🙂

So, what triggered me to write the first paragraph? I had to do some research for a client – we needed some open source to-do list/task management solution to integrate with other existing systems and… believe it or not… as it happens, one thing led to another (big thanks to the wonderful Google algorithms) – so, in no time, I was looking at the latest drone released by Parrot (the Bebop 2) – an amazing piece of modern technology.

Bebop 2 Source: Parrot Website

Now, the few friends I have know I am a sucker for gadgets and technology but they don’t know how I struggle NOT to buy all the mechanical and electronic stuff I see every day. What I usually do, to get away from the curse, is do some research in how the thing was built and how it can be improved (You know, the kind of: “Nah… it’s not that great after all, it doesn’t wash your teeth in the morning…” type of thing…)

The good about the Bebop 2 is… it does quite a lot. So, I had to spend quite some time to find what it does not.

As far as I understand (I don’t own ANY drones, so I may be wrong) it does not give you an easy way to do an automated “selfie” or “dronie” as the “soon to be released” Lily Camera (drone) is supposed to… Meaning you can’t put it in the air and let it follow you and film some great action movie in the process… No, you’d have to use your mobile and the Skycontroller or a virtual reality headset to control it…

Lily Camera Source: Lily Camera website

As it happens, there’s a plethora of self flying filming drones soon to hit the market so, for the action sports fans and selfie maniacs out there, there is relief in the near future…

There’s also some good news from a robotics company Neurala who just released for iOS and soon for Android a piece of software that can control your existing drone to do exactly that (“selfies” and “dronies”) directly from your beloved phone. So, you see, the market is moving fast.

Now, why am I talking about drones and selfies and everything related? Remember, I started by doing some research for Open Source Software for a to-do list/task management…

Guess what: ALL these products, regardless of the vendor, have one thing in common: They use (heavily) Open Source Software. From the operating system running the built-in mini super-computer, to the flying path generator or the camera image stabilization – there’s a bit of Open Source they’ve used to make it all possible.

If you don’t believe me, check Parrot’s website and you’ll see what I am talking about – or simply do a search for their name combined with Open Source (or any other drone manufacturer, for that matter) and – chances are – you’ll find out the open source packages they’ve used.

Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t change the fact that they have worked their brains out to put everything together and refine it to the point where these drones can be considered very close to artificial intelligence entities. I’m just pointing out the fact that Open Source has become one of the major drivers of technological advancement – as it should be. The best advancements happen when there is democratic access to advances in technology, not when things are kept close to the chest and only for the benefit of the few (get the hint, fruit lovers? :P).

After all, the fact that we have cars today relies heavily on the fact that anyone could use the design of the wheel to build a carriage ever since it was invented… Perhaps that was the first case of Open Source Design ever?…

Open Source Rulez.

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