More than five years after the release of Glass, Snap is back with a second hardware product. This time it flies.
Yes, Snap created a drone. The little yellow buck, called the Pixy, grabs a video that can be snatched from your hand, followed around you, and sent to Snapchat. It’s Snap’s attempt to make the drone more friendly and accessible than any other product on the market – and it could mean building a more advanced, AR-powered future Snap.
Pixy is available online for $ 230 in the US and France from Thursday. Unlike most existing drones, it is small and light enough to fit in a pants pocket. No controller; It takes off and lands on the outstretched palm, and it uses six pre-planned flight shapes that can be accessed by the dial on the top of the device.
Snap, which primarily runs the emerald messaging processor, makes the selfie drone? This is the first question I’m going to ask CEO Evan Spiegel.
“Because we’re a camera company,” he tells me in a recent video chat. Since 2016, Snap has changed the tagline from Snapshot to Snapshot and released its first pair of glasses. “Our mission is to empower people to express themselves, to live in the moment, to learn about the world, and to have fun together. This product does just that.”
Spiegel has been interested in drones for many years, at least until 2016, when Snap began to understand how devices fit into its camera enterprise strategy. He almost acquired the Chinese drone company Zero Zero Robotics, but time was paralyzed. As Facebook aggressively copied its key stories feature, investors doubted Snap’s growth prospects as new public shares, and the deal eventually fell short of price. The company is not yet consistently profitable, but Snapshot is now growing much faster than Facebook and already has more users than Twitter.
So far, drones have not been caught beyond professional use cases and early adopters. Most are heavy, noisy and expensive. Some even need permission. The main focus of Pixy is to make it accessible with friendly-sound propellers and designs that fit in your pocket. “Finally we got to where we were, ‘Wow, this is so much fun. I think maybe we should publish it,'” Spiegel said.
The Pixie weighs just 101 grams when its replaceable battery is inserted. According to Snap, you can get five to eight flights at full charge, which can take approximately 10 to 20 seconds – even shorter aircraft according to smaller drone standards. The extra batteries cost $ 20, and Snap sells a portable dual-battery charger for $ 50. Pixy’s 12MP sensor captures up to 100 videos or 1,000 photos, all stored locally on a 16GB drive.
Views can be synced wirelessly in Snapchat’s Memories section and edited there (does not like audio, so Snap allows you to use licensed songs from music labels), and then share directly in the app or elsewhere. Snap has selected some Pixy-specific AR effects, and I expect many more to be added over time from the company and its creators. An auto-crop feature that quickly transforms horizontal views, focusing on the main subject, into Snap’s main vertical orientation. The video quality is not amazing – you do not want to display it on the big screen – but it is enough to watch on the phone.
Thanks to the facing camera below, Pixy’s key trick takes off and lands in your hand. Its front-facing camera should be approximately aligned at eye level as it exits, and then it will automatically monitor you as you move. When you are ready to finish the flight, extend your hand to the pixy and it will return to your palm. During outdoor and indoor testing, I found this to be the most impressive part of using the drone; It works and triggers a rare “aha” moment that happens for the first time.
Spiegel sees Pixie as a new way to capture people-centric moments, rather than how drones are traditionally positioned. “Since your smartphone can’t fly, I think Pixy opens up a whole new space here,” he says. “You can get a whole new and different perspective. In that sense, I think Pixy makes more sense than what your smartphone can create.
Pixie stands apart from its simplicity in competing with smaller drones. There is DJI Years Is making small drones that come out of your hand and automatically come around you; Those drones have a long battery life High quality video, Too. But these competing models are more expensive and more complicated to use. They are even bigger than the pocketable pixie.
There are some other limitations to Pixy’s design. Because the device is so lightweight you will not want to use it in windy conditions. Snap also advises against using it on water and other glossy, reflective surfaces, which could automate flying and confuse the camera underneath.
I do not plan to make much money with Snap Pixy. According to Spiegel, “the goal is to get people into their hands and let them play with it.” “If people like the original product, we can do more in version two.” If anything, he says, it could have set its own expectations for the Snap version much lower. “Honestly, looking back, we should have done more. Now it’s very difficult for all the supply chain stuff to happen. We did not expect it to be so good.
In 2016, before the glasses went down, I noticed Snap promoting jobs with the slogan “Toys are the forerunner of serious ideas”.
The famous design was first created by twins Charles and Ray Eames, and the phrase has proven to be a symbol of how Snap works. Launched as the first sexting processor a decade ago, the processor has more than 330 million daily users, including 75 percent of 13-34 year olds in 20 countries. More than 250 million users are involved every day with AR effects or lenses. Those lenses started by allowing people to vomit in the rainbow and wear dog ears. Now, they can solve mathematical equations and you can try on clothes.
Glasses are not commercially successful, and Snap Exaggerated the need In the beginning for them, but Now they are full size AR glasses It represents a number of technologists, Including Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Hope to be the next big wave of computing. Despite being less expensive than Meta or Apple, Snap is at the forefront of its bear set with unattached, functional AR glasses and a growing ecosystem where hundreds of developers make lenses for them.
Spiegel sees Snap’s hardware efforts as a way to push the boundaries of what a camera can be. He focuses on the camera because people are already expressing themselves on mobile phones. “When you look at our approach to hardware, it’s really about expanding the focus of what people are doing and liking Snapshot,” he says. “One of the things that really changed our perspective on cameras was the hands-free nature of the glass because people created completely different materials.” A flying camera, naturally, expands on that idea.
If the glasses were any symbol, Spiegel might have several future generations of Pixy up to his sleeve. He sees building hardware as a long-term commitment, especially on the side of AR glasses – he has not seen them become the mainstream for years. “This is very important for the long term of our business because we want it to improve steadily over time,” he tells me. “At the same time, there are a lot of technical restrictions today, which means that AR glasses can be difficult to measure quickly. So I do not think it would be prudent for us to try to push the size of a product that is not ready yet.
In the end, Pixie, more than Spectacles, thinks Spiegel. “After two versions of camera glasses, it is clear that the market for camera glasses is actually very small and that first person is restricted to people who want POV,” he says. “I think the market for Pixy is huge.”
Going into our conversation, I have a theory that, like the first version of Glass, Pixie was a Trojan horse for a great idea. Drones are already being used to create 3D maps, which can be useful for creating more realistic lenses in the real world. Snap Recently bought a French startup called Next Mind This created a pillow for controlling computers with your thoughts. Will the future come when I wear AR glasses and control a pair of Pixy with my mind?
When I asked Spiegel about this, he smiled and said this is what I get the most out of him on the record. Pixy is just a toy, at least for now.
“Lifelong social media lover. Falls down a lot. Creator. Devoted food aficionado. Explorer. Typical troublemaker.”