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The suit that turns your body into a drone controller

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Have you ever wanted to know what it feels like to fly?

A team at a Swiss University have developed a wearable device capable of controlling drones but also giving the user a feeling that they themselves are in flight.

The device, called the FlyJacket, was developed by a team École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland. It is a sort of exoskeleton which uses motion-tracking devices to monitor body movements and is coupled with goggles to give users a first-person-view from the drone’s perspective. It also has supports to make sure your arms don’t get too tired.

While wearing FlyJacket you can pitch and roll your body and whichever drone you have synced will respond to your movements. Best of all, you will definitely not look silly while using it (see video below).

The researchers behind the technology said of their gadget:

“Wearable interfaces could enable a more natural and intuitive control of drones, which would make this technology accessible to a larger population of users.”

Does this mean goodbye to remotes?

Slow your roll. This project is in its early stages and controllers are going nowhere for some time yet. Other big companies such as Samsung have been working on technology to make drones follow your body or eye movements but at this stage, much of this type of technology is a fun novelty but not yet at a stage where it will supplant the way we do things right now. One inherent advantage FlyJacket has over other methods for controlling drones is that using it is highly intuitive. People trying it for the first time can therefore learn to use it with very little training.

A user wearing the FlyJacket initiates take-off by squeezing their index and middle finger against their thumb. Once it is in the air, using the same gesture you can set points of interest on your visually projected map.

But won’t you look like a complete goober?

You will 100 percent look absurd. Looking ridiculous, however, is arguably a price worth paying for the ability to simulate the feeling of flying. If it does come to market in any sort of shape similar to its current iteration, you’d want to be careful where you tested this device out because one imagines that it would be totally immersive (E.g you take the visor off and discover all your stuff has been stolen).

When I interviewed a New Zealand FPV drone racer for an article last month, he said that for him, being able to use his goggles while racing to see from the perspective of his drone’s camera was enough to make him feel as if he’d left his own body and become the drone. Participants who tested the FlyJacket reported they felt more immersed and had more of a sensation of flying when compared to the traditional method of navigating drones with a controller.

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