Jun22

Photography Is Going Mobile!

Posted by Nick Hall

We take a look at how technology is set to send our selfies to the sky.

If you thought the ‘selfie stick’ was a feat of innovation, then prepare to have your mind blown. The next generation of self portrait gadgetry will come courtesy of Lily, the drone that will follow you and take snapshots from a distance.

This ambitious start-up is not (unfortunately for some) designed to give you the #selfie photos which are so popular on Instagram. It is in fact aimed at snowboarders, mountain bikers, paragliders, kayakers and other adventure sport enthusiasts who simply aren’t satisfied with an on-board GoPro anymore. This is tech that will be adopted by the masses, and with over 17 million selfies being uploaded to social media accounts every week this arm of extreme photography is set to take over.

Everything about Lily will appeal to the gadget-loving adrenaline junkie, especially the fact that you launch it by simply throwing it in the air. Once airborne it links up with a separate unit that is worn on the wrist, and that’s when the magic truly happens. The ‘follow me’ function instructs Lily to do exactly that, chasing its owner dutifully at speeds of up to 25mph, and up to 15m above their head. Of course it is always pointed at the star of the show: you. The quad copter allows for the kind of wide-angle shots from a distance that have been the preserve of Hollywood films until now.

Lily can be programmed to simply hover, produce arcing shots that would have once required a crane. It can shoot 1080p HD video at up to 60 frames a second which can then be converted to stylish slow-mo, and 12mp still photographs. Just a few years ago this quality was the best you could hope for from professional DSLRs.

Lily can fly for 20 minutes between charges which should give even mediocre sportspeople the chance to get the perfect shot. If it runs out of battery or ‘loses’ its owner, it simply lands smoothly.

The upmarket selfie stick of the future was produced by a group of Berkeley University graduates who wanted to create the future of selfie photography. Of course the main issue with selfies is the lack of context; the best we can hope for is a little background, even with the much-derided selfie sticks. With Lily we have the potential to take our self portraiture to the extreme, so don’t expect a drop in social media selfie spamming.

For the super-techie businesses out there, Lily could give you the best opportunity to get snapshots of your team at work. Whether you’re team building in the Alps or hosting a coffee morning in the office, Lily is on-hand to make sure any staff experience is documented to a high standard.

Lily will ship next year from February and comes with a pre-order price of $499, which is cheaper than the realistic competition. That price will rise to $999 when it officially goes on sale, so get your order in now if you want a Lily on the cheap.

Selfies are set to be big tech business…

There are alternatives coming to the market. Airdog, a drone designed to carry a GoPro which is also equipped with the ‘follow me’ function, can achieve speeds of 37mph and is in the final testing stages. With pre-orders at a huge $1,295, it’s hard to imagine the Airdog as a real threat to Lily.

However, with the GoPro’s market dominance in the adventure sports market, the future proofing that goes with simple swapping out the GoPro for the next generation and the flexibility of the camera, Airdog might turn out to be the poster child of the ‘selfie drone’ market.

Hexo+ also carries a GoPro, and with six rotors this slick-looking unit has the potential to be a real challenger. It’s a bit late to the party, but then it may have more time to iron out bugs and secure a technical advantage. Like the Airdog, pre-orders of the Hexo+ are north of $1,000 ($1,349).

At the cheaper end of the scale, the Zano also has a ‘follow me’ function and is aiming to sell for around $250. It is compact at just 2.5 inches across, but with a 5mp camera it is seriously limited when it comes to the actual image quality. Casual consumers will love it, but real videophiles might scoff at the output.

The Parrot Bebop is another drone that’s already on the market, but it is not autonomous and must be controlled via a tablet or smartphone. It also lacks the ‘follow me’ function that defines Lily. That makes it a very different proposition and should rule it out of the arms race for the selfie drones of the future.

Whichever one takes the market by storm, selfie drones are set to become big business in the years ahead; selfie photography is predicted to become a high-tech, spectacular art form in its own right.  Suddenly that selfie stick looks pretty lame doesn’t it?

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