Taiwanese Researchers Summon The Force To Pilot A Drone Using An Apple Watch

PVD drone 1
Smartwatches in general have been met with much skepticism ever since they started crossing most peoples’ radars in 2014. The biggest criticism leveled against smartwatches is that they duplicate much of the functionality found on smartphones (which themselves are already quite convenient), in turn making them $250+ gadgets that we don’t really need in the first place.

While some of that may be true, Taiwanese researchers from PVD+ are at least using a smartwatch to pull of some pretty amazing tricks. In this case, the research team has written a software algorithm that turns an Apple Watch into a remote control for drones and even smart home appliances.

The most impressive demonstration involves a Parrot AR Drone 3.0, which is controlled by the Apple Watch using hand gestures instead of complicated controls. PVD+ co-founder Mark Ven demonstrated how easy it is to control the drone by simply using an outstretched arm and gentle hand movements to send it up, down left, right, forwards and backwards.

PVD drone 2

"Previously we've needed complicated controls to fly drones, but now we can use a wearable device, and through human behavior and gestures directly interact with them — using a hand to control and fly drones directly," said Ven.

In action, Ven looks more like Luke Skywalker attempting to “use the force” to lift his X-Wing from a swamp — only Ven has more success controlling his aircraft in this instance. But that’s not the only Star Wars reference to be found here; Ven is also able to control Sphero 2.0 drone with an Apple Watch and simple hand gestures. Given that Sphero also makes a BB-8 version of the same device, could technically easily use “the force” to control your own droid to the amazement of your friends.

And of that wasn’t enough, Ven and his team have devised a way to turn on a smart LED light bulb with the clap of your hands (that itself is not a new idea) and change colors using hand gestures. It is this latter capability that has to be seen to be believed. Ven writes an “R” in the air with his fingers, and the light turns red. Writing a “Y” turns the light yellow; well, you get the idea.

Ven and the rest of the PVD+ have pulled off something truly incredible using off-the-shelf components, and we can’t wait to see where they take their software in the future.