A unique new Kickstarter project from Tokyo called Phenox is an intelligent quadcopter micro-drone that responds to spoken commands, whistle tones, and hand gestures. The autonomous micro-drone is small enough and light enough to land on and to take off from your hand. The Phenox’s on-board intelligence, supplied by a Xilinx Zynq SoC, allows the drone to autonomously fly and hover. Two on-board video cameras, a range sensor, an inertial measurement unit (IMU), and a microphone allow the Phenox to monitor its environment and respond accordingly. As the Kickstarter description says, “You have only to call and put out your hand to make interaction.”
Here’s the video from the Kickstarter project page:
The developers view Phenox as more than just a toy or drone; it’s a development platform for “flying apps.” Part of the Phenox project has involved developing an “intelligent self-control system” (ISCS) that provides the foundation for autonomous flying that apps developers can then build apps upon. ISCS is layered upon Linux, which runs on the Zynq SoC’s ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore processors. The developers are using OpenCV libraries for developing computer-vision apps and the open-source Julius speech-recognition engine for developing voice-recognition and whistle- or sound-control apps. The developers have also created a PC-based app-development environment. The entire flying robot with battery weighs only 60 grams. The battery gives the micro-drone robot five minutes of air time between charges.
Here’s a photo of the control board, which has little more than the Zynq SoC, 256Mbytes of DDR3 SDRAM, an SD card socket, the downward-facing video camera, IMU, and power devices.
Just three days into the funding campaign, backers have already pledged more than four times the financial pledges needed to fund the project, with another 27 days to go in the campaign.