Intel’s RealSense depth-sensing cameras are, like a good cheese, finally mature enough to be sold and consumed and enjoyed. At CES there are webcams, there are phones and laptops all with RealSense.
But the most exciting (and possibly-most-dangerous-to-our-species) application we’re seeing so far is in new drones — which will sense your presence, follow you, and chase you. If you want them to. Hopefully.
Intel’s RealSense camera forms the eyes of the Yuneec Typhoon H, the first silent salvo in Skynet’s silent war against humanity. Or, the smartest drone you’ve ever seen, depending how you look at it. It’s a hexacopter, a six-rotor-and-six-motor-powered drone with carbon fibre arms and feet that retract when it takes off with the push of a button. While the 4K camera below is mounted on a 360-degree gimbal with complete freedom of motion, the front-facing RealSense camera is the one that tracks the drone’s position and the position of other moving objects around it.
Ostensibly, that depth-sensing camera is for avoiding obstacles, which the Typhoon H absolutely does, very well and very reliably. But it also tracks people, in concert with GPS and the drone’s own Wi-Fi connectivity, and that means it can follow you wherever you go. Intel also had an Asctec prototype drone on show which had six RealSense cameras arranged in a 360-degree arc, making the drone presumably able to even avoid the missiles that you try to shoot it down with.
The circa-US$1799 Yuneec Typhoon H will be launched in the US later this year, and that price includes a controller with its own integrated Android tablet, saving you the necessary purchase of a second device to clip into the traditional dual-joystick remote controller. In a similar fashion to the 3DR Solo, you can set up routines for tracking shots, 360-degree orbiting and panning — but RealSense means it won’t crash into anything while it’s doing, no matter how ham-fisted you are at the controls. The hardware also means more redundancy; Yuneec says the drone can lose one of its six rotors and still land safely without losing control.
The proof is in the pudding, though. Intel demonstrated the efficiency of RealSense on drones at CES 2016, with the help of Yuneec and Ascending Technologies, by having it chase its own pilot around an octagon. He couldn’t get away. He couldn’t hide. He couldn’t even make it crash into the wall. Repent, human, because your time on this planet is coming to an end and the age of the robot is about to begin: