Backerjack Podcast #23: Collapsible Drones and Medication Minders

In Episode 23 of the Backerjack Podcast, Steve and Ross check out some of the latest products seeking funds and preorders, including:

  • Lumma, a pill sorting and dispensing device that reminds people to take their meds and alerts if they don’t.
  • Photokite Phi, a soft drone that runs on a tether for easier control and folds up into a tube for easy portability.

We also mentioned a few other products we wished we had more time for, including the Passfort password entry accessory and the OrbMi home messaging device.

Download the episode or listen below, subscribe via iTunes or RSS, and subscribe to the Backerjack Daily Digest to make sure you catch all the gadgets we’re covering. Also check out Steve’s great work on Apple World Today!


Photokite Phi is a drone that’s kept on a tight leash

Lots of people are excited about the potential of drones for package delivery ad other lofty tasks, but today one of the key applications is fancy camera work. Don’t be fooled. It takes a lot of work and expertise to make an autonomously one-shot music video masterpiece.

Indeed, the hardest part of drones is not getting them in the air but controlling them. That’s the inspiration for the Photokite Phi, an action cam-carrying drone that is meant to be tethered. In effect, it is something of a flying selfie stick. This doesn’t mean, though, that the Phi doesn’t have its charms. For one, like a folded kite, it’s relatively portable, folding into a cylindrical case. Its soft propellers minimize the potential danger from even the tethered ride going awry and its leash winds into the body of the device. It can also be controlled via wrist gestures.


Eedu educational kit lets you roll your own drone

The military, commercial, and extreme sport applications of drone technology have dominated news headlines and drone feature sets for the past few years. As such, this versatile technology’s reputation has been reduced to either a war machine or a camera with wings.

Skyworks Aerial Systems gives people a chance to explore all sorts of drone possibilities with its Eedu drone assembly kit. Contained inside the Eedu kit are all the tools and parts necessary to put it together, so new users can assemble and start programming quickly while more intrepid users can opt to install their own hardware. While the drone is compatible with a wide array of open source hardware, it isn’t necessary to use them. The company’s Intel Edison-powered LUCI drone controller has all the hardware and sensors to act as its brains and still be open to expansion for more varied use.

Connected Objects Imaging

Onago drone follows and captures your finest moments on the go

For most extreme sports enthusiasts, recording their feats is a financial hassle. Outside of expensive camera systems, bulky drones, and helicopter rentals, the market for portable, affordable high-definition recording is woefully lacking. GoPro has positioned their cameras as an inexpensive solution, but only limited angles are available with it.

To address the need, ARI’s Onago is an intelligent, auto-follow drone equipped with a gimbal that can mount a GoPro. With this set up, anyone can dive into multi-angle video to record their aerial shenanigans. Onago is a beast in the air, as well, flying as high as 3000ft with a top speed of 35mph. To control it, the product can be synced to an iOS or Android smartphone to enable things like one touch take-off and return.

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ZANO drone zigs and zags, zooms upward from the palm of your hand

The drones we all know and love are usually large, intimidating machines that seem to be more a part of a Terminator movie than anything else. That’s why the recent trend of their miniaturization is a welcome thing.

Torquing Group’s ZANO continues that trend with its 6.5cm x 6.5cm, fits-in-the-palm-of-the-hand construction. The nano drone offers everything a larger drone can, from HD picture and video capture to a follow me mode, to ensure any high-action events can be captured. Its image stabilization ensures the moments are captured without the presence of blurring or anything else unsightly.

Smartphone tethering allows for gesture control, a back-to-user feature, and a free fly mode when users want full reign over the drone’s operation. Black and white options go for £149 (~$232), while a limited camouflage or glow-in-the-dark option are all available to interested backers, and currently go for £215 (~$335). The £125,000 (~$194,625) campaign is looking to have more ZANOs in the air by June 2015.

As previously mentioned, the ZANO is a reflection of the miniaturization of drones. Other products like the Anura or the Pocketcopter offer similar functionality, but with it are also burdened by a drone’s chief problem: battery life. The ZANO itself only lasts for 10-15 minutes before needing a battery swap, an impractical amount of time for anything other than short bursts of use, rendering something like a follow me mode pretty useless. Its size may be impressive, but users won’t be able to marvel for too long.


Mind4 puts Android into a drone

There’s no doubt about it at this point: drones will become as commonplace as the cars on the streets or planes in the sky. As the technology is become more and more available, people find out how they can fit drones into their lives. For the most part drones are a hobby but they still require a user’s full attention when controlling it. Airmind is making it so that controlling a drone will be as effortless as tapping a button.

Their product, the Mind4, is a souped-up, Android-based aerial drone equipped with an HD camera and quad core 2GHz processor. Airmind claims that this is the fastest processor on any drone on the market, which is good because it lets it utilize their proprietary tracking software to the fullest extent instead of relying on an error prone GPS. Its standard smartphone tracking app allows users to highlight subjects of interest to focus on, while six other apps are specifically tailored to certain activities like surfing or cycling.

One of the Mind4’s biggest draws is its gesture recognition ability. One hand up in the air will tell it to come closer, two hands will prompt it to take a photo, while pointing down will command it to land, all of which will keep users focused on the activity at hand. And being that the drone can accept GoPro and other cameras, users have a lot of choice as to how they want to shoot their footage. A backing of $899 will go towards a Mind4 with an estimated delivery date of September 2015. The campaign is looking to raise $100,000.

The Mind4 is sort of the Mercedes of drones in terms of technology. That 2GHz processor is nothing to be scoffed at, and while other drones like Anura don’t necessarily compare, they do offer something slightly different. The problem with all these drones, though, is their absolutely terrible battery life. What’s the point of buying something like this if users can only use it for 15 minutes of their ski run? Until battery life gets far better, there really can be no use for a drone of this size and power.

Connected Objects Toys

Anura drones on about affordable portable aerial photography

Drones are our modern days kites. On a clear day, you can see any number of them whizzing around at the nearby park with kids and adults alike on the ground controlling them. They easily maintain interest and have slowly become more and more accepted, even if most of the time they can be bulky and pretty unwieldy. The folks at Anura want to make it easy to have some flight with you anytime with their Anura drone. It’s only slightly larger than a full size smartphone and weighs in at only 4oz, making it extremely portable to the point that you can place it in your pocket. Instead of a huge remote control, all users need is an iOS/Android phone to stream live images or video with its builtin Wi-Fi, and take advantage of features like one click auto-land and return home for easier use. Unfortunately, your fun will be limited to about 15 minute unless you’re carrying around a few interchangeable batteries, which kind of defeats the purpose. In any case, the Anura drone can be had by April 2015 for $195. The company has achieved their funding goal of $100,000.

Sports Video

The AirDog drone takes amazing videos of action sports

airdogThe GoPro camera revolutionized the way extreme sports enthusiasts captured footage of their stunts and amazing feats, but the camera angles were limited, required someone to follow the action separately, or came out too shaky and jarring. AirDog is a remote-controlled quadcopter drone that can be programmed via smartphone or that can simply follow the action by tracking a bracelet and keeping it in frame, recording it through a GoPro. The finished product is remarkably smooth, and examples of what the AirDog can do make up the vast majority of the product’s introduction video. AirDog takes flight in November 2014 for $1,195.

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Game of Drones quadricopter survives fire, shotgun blasts, your ex’s scorn

GameofDronesThe robots destined to rule Earth as our indifferent masters will one day chuckle at how we primitive humans enabled them to resist our weapons.  Two guys in Northern California have developed a prototype indestructible drone with a four-pronged body that can survive multiple falls, flying through glass plates and fire, landing in water, and being shot. For $125, you can get the unassembled parts of the product and put it together yourself. Or for $600. you can get one fully assembled. Perhaps the only thing it can’t resist, though, is a ticket. If you’re flying unmanned aircrafts, make sure you abide by your local drone laws. Happy piloting!

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Pocket Drone springs skyward from your pants

PocketDroneMae West never inquired as to whether a gentleman admirer had a drone in his pocket. But anyone of her time would be happy to see this multicopter with a footprint smaller than that of an iPad. The Pocket Drone is not only small but mighty, powerful enough to hoist aloft a video camera to capture some impressive videos shown off by the campaign page. According to the project creators, though, the power won’t come at the price of complexity as they note they’ve been through “dozens of iterations to create the perfect drone product that can be used by everyone.” Those wanting to test that claim will need to pledge just under $500 and wait until June 2014, at which point they can command their drone to “go up and see me sometime.”