A 27-year-old Australian inventor has demonstrated how to combine two of technology's hottest and most controversial trends:
Simon Kantor, who created the ROAM-e selfie-snapping drone, yesterday launched video proof of the world-first device in operation before its release in stores later this year.
The water bottle-sized flying device is programmed to recognise users' faces and automatically follow them around to capture video or photos, staying one to three metres away.
The unique creation, originally dismissed as an April Fool's Day prank when announced earlier this year, has won attention from huge American retail chains, and "indicative orders" of more than 250,000 devices before Christmas.
"The pre-orders are, excuse the pun, flying in," he said.
But the concept behind the international export originated in a humble couch conversation with a friend, Kantor said.
"We were talking about trending products and selfie sticks and we were we like 'how can we make the selfie stick better?'," he said.
"As an offhand remark, I said we could make it fly. A few hours later I had a concept. Twelve months later we have an actual ROAM-e."
In order to get the product off the ground, the IoT Group had to develop facial recognition software that could run off "a $30 computer," Kantor said, and an app in which users could register their face and issue commands to the device.
The ROAM-e's high-definition camera can be directed to capture selfies, high-speed burst photos, or videos, and it will feature rotor blades that fold on two axes to prevent injuries and damage.
We were talking about trending products and selfie sticks and we were we like 'how can we make the selfie stick better?'
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Kantor said the AUS$499 device would arrive in Australian stores in September, though he expected the US to be its biggest market, with talks underway with chains including Walmart and Costco.
"I'm hoping that it's going to be a natural evolution from the selfie stick," he said. "I hope it lets people have access to flying cameras without having to be a drone expert."
The ROAM-e will compete for consumers' attention with a range of unusual cameras this year, however, with Samsung yesterday launching its Gear 360 camera, also priced at $499.
The spherical camera can be used to capture 360-degree videos that can be viewed online or inside virtual reality headsets.