It Came From CES: iPhone-controlled hoverdrones that can fight imaginary robots

Parrot's AR.Drone in action

The exhibitors at CES can pack up and go home, because it's clear what this year's gadget is: the remote-controlled AR.Drone helicopter from Parrot.

The normal two-rotor remote-control helicopters currently on the market will break your heart (and your windows) because they're just impossible to steer. But with its self-stabilizing four-rotor design, the AR.Drone can hover motionless in the air, ready to strike. It has two built-in cameras that transmit live color video, so it can spy on really unobservant people. You control it over wifi with an iPhone or iPod Touch. (What, no Droid love?) It has an open SDK. And as if that weren't enough, it also has augmented-reality gaming: it can mix graphics into the actual environment on your iPhone's screen so you can shoot at robots and space ships that aren't actually there.

Parrot aren't the only ones with a tiny, hovering four-rotor chopper, however. Recently, MIT's Robust Robotics Group revealed its own autonomous laser-guided quadricopter. But while the MIT project is purportedly designed for boring applications like search and rescue, the AR.Drones can totally fight each other in a kind of AR.Lasertag! You can keep your civil-engineering inspection, MIT -- the AR.Drone and I are going down the chimney to see what the neighbor's house looks like.

MIT's laser-guided quadricopter

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