CES: Man-sized drones, augmented reality glasses and ‘cute flying automatons’

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Good news, everybody: I survived my first day of CES. It was tough, but I managed to cover the entire show floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center without getting consumed by the deluge of incredible gadgets and gizmos on display. While I found myself ogling a number of flashy gizmos for all kinds of purposes, I chose for my first article from the convention to focus on the big showings from day one.

It may not be a complete surprise considering all the buzz surrounding these technologies, but the two biggest presences at the Tech East convention center this year are drones and augmented reality (AR) gear. From pocket drones to augmented reality glasses, there was no shortage of cool new takes on these ever-expanding products.

Read more: The first-time drone buyers guide


There were a number of interesting drones on display this year, including a drone large enough to carry a human pilot (which may disqualify it from actually being classified as a drone), but what really caught my eye were a series of drones made for quick out-of-pocket photo sessions. These pocket drones are aimed at the selfie-generation, providing users a tool for taking photos on the fly (pun intended).

Drones like the Hover Camera Passport are quick activation drones that can be pulled out and powered on, taking off right from the user’s palm without any controller present. Once the device is activated, the pilot can use their smartphone to control the drone, take pictures or set it to auto follow.

The latter is perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Passport: the user doesn’t need to be at the stick the entire time the drone is in flight. Once the detection mode is set, and the user is set as the “target,” the drone will simply follow along like a cute flying automaton, taking 4K video or 13MP photos as it goes.

The Zero Tech Dobby also fits into this category, providing a similar experience as the Passport, but in a slightly more aesthetically pleasing form. The Dobby has the same palm take-off feature, along with the target tracking.

While this is not something I plan on adopting any time soon, it does seem like one of the more practical uses for drones at the moment. Considering how many regulations are in place restricting drone use in a lot of cities across the United States, this pocket-sized version could be perfect for enthusiasts who want to get a little more out of their impromptu photos.

CES drones augmented reality

Augmented reality

Another fascinating product that I had previously not put a lot of thought into was augmented reality (AR) technology. What I saw at CES changed my mind completely. While Google glasses may have come and gone, having only a brief moment in the sun before fading into obscurity, AR is going to become an incredibly beneficial and ubiquitous technology in the future.


The only headset I was able to test was ODG’s Smartglasses, which look like a pair of sleek 3D movie glasses, and present an intriguing look at what AR could bring to everyday life. One of the coolest features for sports fans is the playback feature, which presents a play from a game the viewer is watching in CGI while the game continues in the background. This feature allows the viewer watch a play from any angle without missing the rest of the game.

The glasses also allow users to interface with a variety of app-like features through the glasses, while also working on a project. For example: A user could be wearing the glasses while working on a document, and pull up through the glasses a calculator or web browser without getting away from the document at hand. Couple this with voice activation features, and our understanding of multitasking is taken to another level.

CES drones augmented reality

Additionally, this technology has been expanded to outdoor uses as well, especially for first responders and cyclists. Developers like Kopin and AltoTech demonstrated several AR headsets and accessories that could be used in a variety of ways, including during a fire rescue. The hypothetical situation given to me involved an infrared sensor attached to an AR headset allowing firefighters to see where heat was most intense to avoid entering dangerous areas and to fight the fire more effectively.

As for cyclists, the AR headsets that I saw gave riders the ability to receive information more effectively through interactions with attached cameras as well as Bluetooth connections to smartphones and other similar devices. AltoTech’s glasses boast photo, video, music and call features. Additionally, the glasses could also be synced to body sensor devices that track heartbeat and lung performance in order to give the rider on-the-fly updates on their performance during a ride.

That is all I’ve got for now. Tomorrow, I’m off to Tech West at the Sands to play around with more doodads from the future.

Read more: Amazon is finally going to test that drone delivery you heard about …

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