Star Wars Fantasy — No Longer A Science Fiction, Become Technology

20160102 Star Wars Fantasy No Longer A Science Fiction Became Technology

The Star Wars fantasy of controlling things with your hands is no longer a science fiction, but a reality thanks to researchers at PVD+ in Taiwan who have created a technology that can pilot drones and manipulate lights using hand gestures.

A unique algorithm written for Apple Watch enables this feat. The researchers call the software Dong Coding. The Watch remotely controls a drone with arm movements, briefly turning pilots into Jedi.

Current versions of Drones mostly use remote controls; but a wearable device interacting with the drones through human gestures and behavior is something really exciting for the users. The team also created an app that controls light levels and colors via hand movements, and a spherical robot (Sphere 2.0 drone) resembling BB-8, the adorable rolling droid from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

PVD+, was founded in 2013 and led by Mark Ven, a civil engineering PHD student at the National Chung Hsing University along with a professor there, Yang Ming-der, and three other group members. Ven and his team have adapted the Dong coding to manipulate lighting – not just turning lights on and off, but even changing colors by writing letters. Simply wearing an Apple Watch provides enough motion controls—thanks to the device’s gyroscope and accelerometers—to allow the researchers to pilot a Parrot AR Drone 3.0 using hand movements, or alternatively turn on Philips Hue HomeKit lamps using a clap, then activate a given color by tracing the outline of a character (such as drawing out a “R” to turn the lamp red). During the process the user is interacting and communicating on the Human Computer Interface by using the internet of things, and the wearable device, Ven was quoted as saying.

With Apple making motion sensors available to developers, it has also began using introducing novel motion gesture applications of its own, including shake-to-shuffle playback on iPod nano and shake to undo in iOS. Drone gesture controls have been under development for the last few years among various teams across the world, including Thalmic Lab’s Myo armband which measures electrical activity in muscles rather than the physical movements.

The recent technology developed however is still in its budding stages and needs more work, being easily affected by wind and other environmental factors, and its batteries exhausting in as little as 20 minutes.

The PVD+ team is currently in the process of applying to Taiwan’s Li & Cai Intellectual Property Office for a patent for its Dong software.

In the meantime, the chipmaker Qualcomm has revealed it is producing a custom version of its popular chip Snapdragon specifically for drones. Its Snapdragon Flight processors will lessen drone costs, improve battery life and add advanced features, according to the company sources.

People have been using drones for different reasons — from shooting movies to aerial photography, and with more than 45,000 people registering their drones in US alone, the breakthrough in this regard could well be all that the budding Jedis have been waiting for. The force is strong with this one.

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