Evan Spiegel, CEO of Snap, unveiled the drone at the SnapPartner Summit on Thursday. Pixy — currently available for order but will ship in 11-12 weeks — captures photos and videos with almost the same quality as modern smartphones. It doesn’t have a controller and instead floats out of your hands to do business and then come back.
Social media companies have been trying to break into hardware for the past few years. Spiegel has been using the line that Snap is a “camera company” since its initial public offering in 2017. However, the actual camera of Snap is lacking.
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The company’s entry into hardware began with the original Spectacles. These were hype sunglasses with a camera on the frame and could only be purchased at a smiling yellow vending machine or a reseller with a store around it. The company finally opened the camera glasses to the public in 2019, and since then has focused on the next generation of glasses, the first wearable with a built-in augmented reality display.
Facebook’s parent company Meta released a similar pair of glasses last year called Ray-Ban Stories that allows you to shoot videos and photos from a small built-in camera. The company has not announced the number of units sold for this product.
The category of eyeglasses with cameras raises concerns from experts on privacy and surveillance, dating back to Google’s own endeavor, Google Glass. Adding a small, hard-to-find camera or microphone to a standard accessory can make it easier to take hands-free videos and photos, but it’s difficult to know and agree when the subject was recorded.
Snap was rumored to be working on drones until 2017, but after those rumors began to settle last year, the company was finally able to build a flying camera. With the official launch of Snap’s drone technology, the company will be competing with existing companies like DJI, a popular Chinese drone maker.
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Other companies tried to make a similar casual drone, but failed. GoPro launched the Unmei no Karma drone in 2016 and discontinued it within two years. ZeroZero Robotics has created a Hover Camera Passport, but this passport is no longer available on the site. And in 2015, a company called Lily Robotics created a very similar drone to capture the right moments for selfies and other social media, but at a cost of $ 1,000. The company was subsequently closed.
Despite similar attempts in the past, Pixy has some important differences from many drones currently in flight. There is no way to manually fly a snap drone. Instead, fly along one of four preset flight plans that act as an aerial photographer. Pixy comes with 16GB of onboard storage, but there doesn’t seem to be a way to add more if needed.
This means that once Pixy is full of photos and videos (or “snaps” in company terminology), customers will not be able to replace their memory cards and start further captures. Instead, the purpose is to transfer the media to your smartphone. At that point, you can edit your photos and videos within the Snapchat app. However, a bigger limiting factor could be the battery life of the drone.
According to the company, Pixy can be shipped in 5-8 flights with a single charge of the included battery. Naturally, Snap will sell additional battery packs to prolong the flight and shooting of the drone.