Streaming high with the new Parrot Bebop Drone

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American citrus farmers are flying drones over their crops in order to check harvests for ripeness. Estate agents are taking enticing air videos to show to would-be customers. Roof inspections can be carried out by drones, saving time, money and dispelling danger to workers. The commercial possibilities of drones are vast, so much so they’re now available to the Wi-Fi-obsessed masses, in the guise of the Bebop Drone.

The new Bebop Drone from the French company Parrot is a flying video camera. With a 14 megapixel “fisheye lens”, the front-facing HD camera on board the Bebop is capable of taking quality high definition aerial footage easily and inexpensively. This nifty little flying camera can reach heights of 1000 feet. It can fly for twelve minutes on one charge. It even creates its own Wi-Fi hotspot and streams live. In ideal conditions the Bebop Drone has a range of 2 kilometres plus embedded GPS and 3-axis stabilisation. You can link it up to your smartphone or tablet and monitor the action as you film it.

Skycontroller

Parrot has also announced the new Skycontroller. This additional device extends the range of the Drone up to two kilometres. The Skycontroller enables users to connect First Person View (FPV) glasses via the HDMI plug. With a mere tilt of your head you can then position the camera of the Drone.

Naturally the announcement of such a fun photographic device, which required the skills of 50 engineers, aeronautics, Wi-Fi radio and industrial designers to work on its development and has such huge potential and possibilities, is being lapped up by the tech-loving media.

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Ultra-smooth flying experience

Engadget were quick to give the Bebop a hands-on review. Engadget were particularly impressed with the Bebop’s ultra-smooth flying experience, even in windy conditions. Referring to Parrot’s quadricopter as “one of the most stable drone flights we’re ever seen in action,” the Engadget reviewer was thrilled by the prospect that you can fly the Bebop outside without worrying that a strong breeze will throw it onto your neighbour’s roof.

It can do amazing things”

The gang at Time were equally impressed. With a headline stating the new Bebop Drone can “do amazing things”, Time dubs Parrot as being the most important company in the world of consumer drones – quite an accolade for the French!

Check out the official video:

Not everyone is as quick to endorse the playful merits of the Bebop. Jack Nicas of the Wall Street Journal is quick to highlight the dangers of such ‘toys’. The Wall Street Journal reported how a near-collision between a drone and a commercial jet over Florida has added to the urgency and efforts made by regulators to impose new rules on the proliferation of unmanned aircraft.

“Pilots of these drones are defying seven-year-old restrictions on commercial unmanned aircraft by the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration], which has said the curbs are needed for public safety. But limited resources and legal complications have led to scattershot enforcement by the agency, emboldening even more drone operators,” writes the Wall Street Journal.

It doesn’t seem so long ago when sultry rock stars hired helicopters and camera men at fantastic expense in order to get those vital ‘zoom in and out’ shots from the sky. Such adroit camera work would help sell their records and propel them up the charts. Now, thanks to the likes of Parrot, any garage band of school kids can make an aerial video without even having to leave ‘terra firma.’

If you are keen to get your hands on the Bebop Drone you’ll have to wait. Parrot plan to release the Drone in the last quarter of the year. The exact price has yet to be announced but it has been estimated the Bebop will be in the range of $300 – $400 (Approx. £177 – £237).

Video: Parrot unveil the MiniDrone at CES 2014

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Hovering gracefully in the air and undeterred by the throngs of journalists, the new MiniDrone from the folks at Parrot certainly stood out at the various evening shows at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The MiniDrone works on the principle that it can “fly and roll from floor to ceiling” which is achieved thanks to the ability to attach two ultra-light wheels.

To control the drone, you simply connect to it using low energy Bluetooth Smart and then use the company’s app. The MiniDrone contains multiple sensors as well as “autopilot capabilities’ which make it incredibly easy to fly as well as very stable.

Check out our short video below of the MiniDrone in action, including a close scrape with a fellow tech reporter!

The MiniDrone’s specs are also still be finalising but at the time of writing we’re told that the device weighs 80 grams and the battery should last for around 7 minutes. According to this article on Mashable the drone contains a “500 MHz processor and a gigabyte of RAM”. Details of pricing and availability are difficult to come by at the moment, with the company themselves simply stating “TBA”.

Top 5 Car Stereos

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It’s a rite of passage for any first-time driver to upgrade their car stereo, and with the proliferation of mp3s, streaming services and smartphones there’s never been a better time to buy a new car stereo to use with your new smart device.

Whilst car stereos haven’t changed all that much over the past 10 years, it’s safe to say the way we consumer music has. With this in mind it’s now really easy to stream music from your phone onto your car’s stereo, and with our top 5 car stereos you can all do of that and so much more.

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Pioneer MVH-350BT

The long-time car stereo experts Pioneer have recently released the MVH-350BT, which is specifically designed to play music stored on your portable devices for under £150. On the front there’s an illuminated USB and Aux-in gives your iPod, iPhone, or Android smartphone direct connection to your car speakers.

The system is fully Bluetooth-enabled so you can easily make hands-free calls and stream Bluetooth audio from your device, whether it’s iOS or Android.

The MVH-350B’s built-in amplifier is capable of a solid 50-watts across four channels. There are also 2 RCA pre-outs so you can hook up another stereo component, like a subwoofer for some extra kick. The only downside for the Pioneer is the lack of CD playback, which might be a deal breaker for some.

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Pure Highway H240Di

In-car entertainment manufacturer Pure has joined forces with Halfords to develop and manufacture a range of car stereos that will get you streaming music from your iPod or iPhone in no time at all.

The mid-range Highway H240Di costs £129, but for that you do get quite a lot of bang for your buck; it comes with digital DAB radio, traditional FM and AM tuners, and there’s connectivity for iOS devices via USB.

If you’re still using CDs as your main source of music, the head unit is compatible with a range of mediums including CD/CD-R/RW, CD/CD-ROM and MP3 CD/ USB playback. There’s also a clever bookmarking feature, which is perfect for listening to audio books on the commute to work. There’s an AUX input, and enough power to run four 45-watt speakers.

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Pure Highway H260DBi

Pure’s has also released Highway H260DBi, which costs a little bit more, coming in at £149. But for the extra £20 you get full wireless Bluetooth streaming and hands-free calling via Bluetooth, and an extra 5-watts across all four channels.

Drivers are able to safely make and receive phone calls via the Bluetooth receiver using the Highway’s controls and an external microphone to ensure the best call quality possible. Finally, you can also customise the button lighting to better suit your dashboard’s internal lighting.

Parrot-Asteroid

Parrot Asteroid

Newcomers to the in-car entertainment market Parrot offer the world’s first Android powered car stereo but for the added functionality you should expect to pay around £240.

The Asteroid is capable of running Internet applications and can access geo-location information via 3G and GPS. You can also listen to Internet radio stations and music streaming services too. Basically it’s like a fully-fledged Android tablet but for your car.

The Android-powered system comes with a decent sized 3.2-inch colour screen, which displays your phonebook, menus, music, playlists, album covers and Internet applications.

The Parrot Asteroid is compatible with an array of music sources whether it’s an iPod, iPhone, USB, SD card or Bluetooth wireless streaming. You can also access to your music via voice command; just say the name of the artist and the music will be launched automatically.

The Asteroid comes equipped with an impressive 55-watt MOSFET amplifier, spread across 4 channels. And there are subwoofer and 6xRCA preamp-outputs, too.

Thanks to a new technology called MirrorLink, it is now possible to bring smartphone apps directly to the screen of our car’s stereo. And, the new Sony XAV-601BT is one of the first systems to offer MirrorLink connectivity.

Sony-XAV

Sony XAV-601BT

The Sony XAV-601BT is a double-DIN audio-video center for your dashboard, so it’s quite a bit bigger than you standard head unit. There are a number of ways to enjoy music on the system whether it is via Sirius XM or Pandora, via the app control feature. There’s iPod compatibility, as well as Bluetooth, dual USB inputs and CD and DVD playback. The XAV-601BT comes standard with everything you could possibly want – except perhaps GPS navigation, but there is an added option for that too.

The main selling point of this is system is obviously 6.1-inch WVGA TFT touch screen, which is running a pin-sharp 800×480 resolution. The system is also Navigation ready – so you can add an optional TomTom satnav module and external GPS antenna for fast, accurate route planning. Passengers are also able to control the system with the Control App. For all this space-aged functionality expect to pay a not unreasonable £270.

CES Unveiled 2013: Parrot Flower Power, Canopy Sensus Case & Trakdot Luggage Tracker

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It’s that time of year again when the majority of UK press and tech industry head out to Las Vegas for CES. As ever, the flight from Gatwick was filled with now familiar faces, including the team from Pure Digital as well as the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones.

Having attempted to shake off the jet lag, the first event on our schedule was ‘CES Unveiled’ event, at its new home in the Mandalay Bay hotel. The organisers had put on a free shuttle from the convention centre, which was an intriguing choice given that its closed to the press today. Nevertheless, the event benefited from being in a much bigger room and we discovered a number of new and forthcoming products.

Parrot Flower Power

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We’re big fans of the Koubachi plant sensor and therefore were intrigued to see, what appears on the surface, to be a fairly similar product from the team at Parrot. Their Flower Power device is the first of what they’re referring to as ‘eco-geek’ products. In essence, it’s a wireless Bluetooth low-energy sensor for your plants that will inform you of their needs thanks to a dedicated application. The Flower Power, which can work indoor or outdoor, measures sunlight, humidity, temperature and fertilizer. This information is transferred via Bluetooth Smart (low consumption) to the Parrot Cloud, analyzed by dedicated software and sent to a compatible Smartphone or tablet. There is also a library of thousands of plants to help inform you about their needs.

Check out this video of the product being described:

Canopy’s Sensus Touch Sensitive Case

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Not another iPhone case we hear you moan, but wait, this is actually offering something a bit different. The Sensus case, from Canopy, features touch-sensitivity built into its back and right side that can handle up to 10 independent touches. In a nutshell this enables you, via supported apps, to interact with your phone by touching your phone case. According to the company, over 500 developers have already applied for access to the SDK. Some existing apps included a camera app where you can touch anywhere on the side to take a photo. A more impressive use of the touch sensitive case was as a braille keyboard, with the phone split in to 6 quadrants. It will be interesting to see what other apps will be developed to make the most of this unique case. The Sensus is due out in the summer and the price will be somewhere between $59-$99.

Trakdot Luggage tracker

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The Trakdot Luggage tracker fits into a checked bag and reports city location in real time to any mobile, Apple, Android, or SMS capable devices. The palm-sized device contains a GSM chip which becomes inactive when it senses its traveling at more than 100mph, but using cellular tower locations it sends a message to say where it was when it “took off” and when it senses its traveling at less than 100mph it reactivates itself, and again sends a message. The Trakdot has been approved by the FAA in US for carriage in hold luggage. An additional use of the device comes through the Bluetooth chip (and accompanying app) which allows you to locate your baggage as it approaches on the carousel. The company also mentioned that a number of airlines are interested in buying bulk the Trakdot to give to premium passengers. The product will be available March 2013 for $49.95 MSRP with an activation fee of $8.99 and an annual service fee of $12.99.

With additional reporting by Ryan Graham

Parrot Zik: Some kind of wonderful

The nature of my job means I see an awful lot of headphones. It’s become a very crowded marketplace of late so when I was invited to take a look at yet another pair of “revolutionary headphones” you’ll understand my eye-rolling cynicism.

However this was no ordinary pair of “revolutionary headphones” and the Parrot Zik brought a lot more to the table than a celebrity endorsement and a flashy launch party.

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Crammed to the gills with more technology than you can shake a USB stick at, the Parrot Zik wireless bluetooth headphones are the latest from the French company famed for their skill in wireless communications.

The Parrot Zik are designed by legendary designer Phillipe Stark and look incredible. There’s a leather band over the top as you’d expect but the arms on either side look like metallic bone and really help the headphones stand out.

“Despite its simple and humble design, Zik is certainly today one of our most successful products in terms of intuitive ergonomics,” says Philippe Starck. “The headphones are perfectly balanced and almost seem fused looking like a mere extension of the human body and all its needs. Sound and consequently music are just a search of one’s own world. The more the sound is close to you, the more you’ll like the music and feel comfortable. An object like this is a universe.”

Fortunately these aren’t just good looking but are carefully designed to work with modern smartphones. A sensor, located in the cushion of the left earpiece, detects and analyses jaw bone vibrations and compares them to the all the surrounding noise. By matching the users’ movements with their speech, Parrot Zik is able to extract and separate the speech from the surrounding noise. Two microphones record sound and determine its direction, in real time. The digital signal processor of the Zik can then determine the origin of the unwanted noise and eliminate it.

The engineers have also incorporated active noise cancelling technology to filter out external sound. I was stood in a crowded room filled with whinging tech journalists (is there any other kind) but was able to disappear into a bubble of sound when I put the Zik on. Sadly I had to take them off, but that was an opportunity to sample another of the Zik’s features – sensors detect when you remove the headphones and automatically pause the music. I tried this a number of times and was unable to catch the headphones out. Clever stuff.

There’s also a touch panel on the right side of the headphones that allows you to pause, skip tracks, adjust volume and answer (or reject) phone calls, all in a button-less natural manner.

The Parrot Zik will be avaliable from July 2012. The price will be annouced at a later date but you’d probably want to start saving now.

Review: Parrot ASTEROID car receiver

Parrot-Asteroid

Parrot, the so-called ‘King of the Bluetooth’, seems to be living up to its name with the Parrot Asteroid, a hands-free telephony system that, via Google Android, facilitates web connectivity, fabricating a purported “new generation of in-car technology”. This glossy and good-looking stereo system, which is likely to enhance even the most suave of car dashboards, comes equipped with a GPS dongle, which, once connected to the car receiver, enables users to enjoy several on-line services previously unattainable with less technologically refined car stereo systems.

One such urbane feature includes Parrot Maps, a cartography service which, not only locates a vehicle’s location and identifies the names of nearby streets and businesses, but also enables drivers to plan an itinerary and to dial – hands-free – related numbers – Great for delivery drivers unable to locate a business on a labyrinth-like industrial estate!

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The Parrot Asteroid’s geo-localisation technology will also alert drivers of the nearest petrol stations and car parks, as well as being informed of real-time traffic updates.

This multi-compatible car stereo enables drivers to cruise along to their favourite tunes from various sources, including a USB Key, MP3 player, iPhone, iPod, SD card, and, thanks to a 3G card, which incidentally is not provided with the product and has to be bought separately, online radio stations.

Stuck on a five-mile tailback on the M3 and itching for somebody to talk to? Rectify the situation by talking to your Parrot Asteroid!  A singular Parrot Asteroid button enables drivers to counteract the galling effects long-distance solo driving can have on drivers, as users can tell their Parrot Asteroid the name of an artist or album they want on, and this highly innovative device, will immediately locate and play the artist of choice. What’s more, if an artist or album is unable to be located in the peripherals connected to the Asteroid, if a 3G Key is attached to the car stereo system, a search will automatically begin on online musical libraries – Exemplifying the crux of hands-free telephony.

Find out more at http://www.parrot.com/uk/products/hands-free-car-kits/parrot-asteroid

Parrot Red Dragon speakers – better by design

Anyone who loves modern design will know the work of French product designer Philippe Starck. His modernist furniture is legendary and unusual in that he doesn’t produce one-off expensive pieces, but rather produces designs that are made for mass production.

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This time, he has turned his attention to the speaker – and teaming up with Parrot has produced this extraordinary pair of speakers in bright red and appropriately named Red Dragon.

The speakers – full name Parrot Zikmu by Philippe Starck – which will set you back the grand price of, well, a grand, are made by wireless peripherals maker Parrot. They are wireless (obviously) and also feature an iPod/Iphone docking station, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth audio streaming and a total power output of 100W RMS. As well as being compatible with all digital formats and PC audio players, they also offer an analogue Hi-Fi input for connecting CD players and TVs.

As Starck himself puts it:

“The aim wasn’t just to make another loudspeaker. It is clear that our design produces amazing sound, but what’s more, whether you use Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, whether you put your mobile phone or your MP3 player next to it, it plays music as if by magic, and that’s incredible. But, and this is what got me interested, what we designed is not a loudspeaker. What we designed was vibrating air.”

The speaker has been designed to emit 360-degree sound (if you want to delve into all the technical explanations, which we don’t have space for here, head over to http://zikmu.parrot.com/en/360-sound).
Finally, if red is not your thing, they also come in black, grey, lime and white.

Parrot MINIKIT Smart: Making smartphones even smarter

Parrot, a leading company of wireless peripherals for mobile phones, has announced its latest creative product to hit the market, the MINIKIT Smart. The MINIKIT Smart is the first Bluetooth hands-free, multifunctional kit with docking bay, which is compatible with all Smartphones and operating systems.

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This innovative creation may prove to be particularly advantageous to men, who, being notoriously bad at multitasking will wholly benefit from the multifunctional capabilities of the MINIKIT Smart, which can simultaneously manage hands-free conversation and the navigation apps available on Smartphones. Although on the other hand men may argue that their ‘no sense of direction’ other half, will now not have an excuse about losing their way because they were chatting to their friends, as both telephone conversations and GPS guidance will go through the 2Watt speaker integrated in the MINIKIT Smart.

Smartphone’s batteries running out of life, particularly on long journeys, will also no longer be an excuse for ending up in Edinburgh instead of Ealing, Tewkesbury instead of Tunbridge Wells, and not answering the phone to the missus’ endless bombardment of ‘where the hell are you’ calls. As thanks to a USB cable being included with the MINIKIT Smart, this smart device can also recharge Smartphone’s batteries.

The MINIKIT Smart can be positioned easily and quickly with a suction cup that swivels from either portrait or landscape maximizing its visibility to the driver. The docking bay can be positioned with similar ease with a magnet.

Earlier this year Parrot launched the MINIKIT Slim, a portable Bluetooth hands-free car kit, which has been commended for its neatness, precision and capabilities. With today’s busy lifestyles, in which time is of the essence, multi-functioning gadgets are now becoming imperative as opposed to solely superfluous. In this sense, when Parrot’s MINIKIT Smart hits the market in November, it is likely to be met with the same, and if not more, admiration and praise as the MINIKIT Slim.