Pixy is a $230 drone camera from the same company that brought you Snapchat and Spectacles.
SNAP IS BEST KNOWN FOR ITS TENSE SOCIAL NETWORK OF FLASH EMAIL MESSAGES AND ACTUALLY IMPRESSIVE AR FILTERS. Snap, which calls itself a “camera company,” does, however, occasionally produce new hardware. Things begin to go awry. It’s just one of those times.
Snap exhibited a flying camera, a type of technology that is frequently referred to as a drone, today at its annual Partner Summit. Pixy, a flat, yellow plastic copter designed to pair with the Snapchat app, lifts off from its owner’s palm, quickly captures a photo or video, then zooms back down to the palm, most likely during Coachella. The video is then wirelessly transmitted to the Snapchat app’s Memories, where it can be enhanced with Snap’s signature AR filters and video effects.
It will set you back $230 for the teeny-tiny drone. You can acquire a Pixy kit with two extra batteries for an extra $20. You’ll probably need the extra batteries because a fully charged Pixy can fly between five and eight short flight paths before needing to be recharged. (Large batteries aren’t practical in a palm-sized drone weighing under a pound.)
Pixy will appeal to a specific type of Snap user, and Snap is aware of this: it’s only selling a limited number of units “while supplies last” in the United States and France. In an interview with WIRED about the drone and Snap’s broader AR aims, Bobby Murphy, Snap’s co-founder, and technology director wouldn’t reveal how many of the drones he expects to sell, though he did say the company’s goal is to “create something that actually resonates with our community.” This appears to be consistent with the company’s previous hardware initiatives. As evidenced by its Spectacles camera glasses, which were initially only available via a Snap-branded vending machine when they launched in 2016, and the AR glasses it showed off last spring, which were only available to developers, Snap is very good at generating buzz around its hardware business, not necessarily revenue from it.
That isn’t to suggest that the Snap laboratories’ hardware isn’t cutting-edge. Snap, a significantly more powerful firm, was the first to create video-capture eyewear years before Meta. Last year’s AR-capable Spectacles gave you a sneak peek at Snap’s immersive and pleasant AR lenses, as seen through your spectacles. Pixy, a new drone, recognizes people’s faces and body parts using computer vision and object recognition technology, allowing it to follow or “orbit” around Pixy users, record the best photo or video clip possible, and then land in the palm of one’s hand.
Snap has also positioned itself as a competitor to Meta, claiming that its augmented reality products are based on current reality rather than a far-fetched future vision. Snap argues that users of its program should still be able to interact with the real world. Meta has its well-known Quest VR equipment, which completely engulfs the wearer’s vision. Snap even titled today’s occurrence “Back to Reality.”
Despite the fact that Snap’s technology—computer experiences superimposed on the real world—is basically how technologists define the metaverse, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel did not mention it during his brief keynote introduction. According to Spiegel, Snapchat is the “number one happiest platform when compared to other applications,” with 90 percent of users feeling at ease and connected while using the app. This is based on research done for the company… Snap. Spiegel’s remarks, on the other hand, come after Facebook was chastised in a series of Wall Street Journal headlines last fall for the damage its apps may have on teen mental health.
Despite the fact that today’s partner event focused on near-term technologies, Murphy maintains that Snap believes in augmented reality “very, very long-term.” He believes that “this has the potential to deliver computing experiences that are more in line with how humans behave naturally.” When asked what sets Snap apart from Meta, Murphy cites the company’s “exclusive focus on AR… We are certain that the potential area in AR is significantly more than what has been labeled as ‘the metaverse’ or other terms.”