Epsons’s AR simulator puts a holographic drone in your living room

Drones are tons of fun, but also require some real skill to pilot safely. If you live in a big city, it can be tough to find places where you are legally, much less safely, able to get up and fly. A lot of drones now come with a flight simulator that lets you practice on a screen. But that doesn’t help to teach you the kind of situational and spacial awareness you’ll need when piloting in the real world.

Today Epson is announcing the launch of an augmented reality flight simulator that will let you pilot a virtual drone through the physical space around you. It works with the company’s Moverio AR glasses and DJI’s Mavic Pro drone. Once you link the two devices the glasses will display a holographic drone you can guide around with the Mavic remote.

I got a chance to try the simulator out at our office and it was a lot of fun. The field of view is limited (just 23 degrees), so you need to track the drone closely with your head to make sure it doesn’t disappear from view. But the hologram was responsive and the drone’s behavior in space felt natural.

There are even a few games built into the app. You can collect candy or fly through some rings. Figuring out how the holographic drone relates to these objects in space definitely highlighted some of the limitations of the simulation. It was tough to line up your drone at the right height and depth to snag a candy or pass through a ring, especially once you were a good distance, in virtual space, from your piloting position.

People have been hacking together versions of this project since 2012, so it’s really cool to see a polished one produced by the companies behind this hardware. As drones become more common, both with consumers and commercial operators, expect to see folks at your local park gazing into the sky, fine tuning the controls of a ghost drone only they can see.

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