Meet WONDU: a gesture-controlled flyer that brings remote controlled flying to a wider, younger audience. Kids can enjoy the magic of controlling flight and movement, while being gently introduced to spatial relations, cause/effect and building hand-eye coordination skills. 

Like other modern controlled flying machines, its onboard gyroscope, accelerometer and microprocessor control flight. The pilot only sends it instructions. We felt there was a more intuitive way to send these instructions, to make play more immediately satisfying for kids of all ages.

Wondu’s flyer has no front or back. Anyone who’s driven an RC car, plane or quadcopter has had to wrestle with the frustrating reversal of controls when the vehicle is coming towards you. Wondu is more like a jellyfish that can move in any direction, than a shark which can only move forward.  By removing the frontality of the vehicle, we are free to make the controls centered on the user, rather than the vehicle. 

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Wondu has no buttons. Control is entirely gesture-based:

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Start up: Remove the flyer from the wand and set on a suitable launch surface. Shaking the wand starts the rotors and after a brief automatic trimming of the rotors (if needed), the flyer starts its flight. Let’s take to the skies!

Shaking the wand again at any time slows the rotors for an automatic soft landing before stopping completely. Easy peasy. 

Virtual Tether: the flyer defaults to an initial flying height of 7’ (above human head height), and a horizontal distance from wand of 7’. It hovers while awaiting gestures or user movement. As the user moves, these initial relative distances are maintained, not unlike a kite, until gestures increase or decrease the virtual tether.

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Basic movement: Waving the wand in a direction instructs the flyer to move in that direction, regardless of where the flyer is 'pointing' (it has no front and back remember!). This control method is entirely intuitive: Swiping North-East makes it go North-East. Swipe South and it goes South. The onboard processor translates the speed and distance of the wand gesture into the flyer's movement, with a corresponding dampened deceleration. In this way multiple swipes of the wand can be used to create a fluid flyer motion, a graceful path through the sky.

Special moves: Specific gestures can be discovered over time to achieve amazing effects. Rotating the wand horizontally makes the Wondu perform a barrel-roll; rotate it vertically and it does a neat little circular spin. There are any number of ‘special moves’ achievable with the wand; the more the child plays with the flyer, the more they learn what the moves are!

Friendly Flyers: When two or more flyers ‘meet’, they spontaneously enter into a randomly choreographed dance, communicating directly with each other and never colliding. A lovely Ballet ensues, so full of form and color. Enjoy the show... 

Lighting effects: When the Wondu encounters low light levels, the onboard photo sensor starts a light show. The lighting effect is sympatico with the flyer’s movements, pulsing and color changing depending on direction, speed and acceleration. Dipping through the shadows of trees, the approach of sunset and indoor flying all initiate a magical firefly moment.

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There’s real magic in this wand.  The wand transmits a constant navigational beacon signal to the four rotor pods, each containing a Bluetooth receiver.  By comparing the signal shift from at least three pods in combination with data from the flyer’s on board accelerometer, gyroscope and digital compass, the flyer can determine it’s altitude, distance, vector and speed relative to the wand’s operator to a resolution of <1m.  This indoor positioning system is known as Bluetooth Trilateration, where three sensors can pin-point a fourth node in 3D space. This is in contrast to Signal Triangulation, which is based on signal strength variation and wouldn't work at such close ranges.
An accelerometer and gyroscope housed in the wand sense the gesture’s dynamic qualities: acceleration, duration, tilt and rotation.  This information is transmitted to the flyer and is compared with the relative positioning information determined by Trilateration. A directional flight control path for the flyer is then generated and executed.

source: http://tam.unige.ch/assets/documents/masters/bekkelien/Bekkelien_Master_Thesis.pdf

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Wondu has three main components: the flyer, the wand and the base.  The three included batteries are stowed and charged inside the wand and flyer when docked. Batteries can be easily swapped during play to triple flying time.

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To make the Wondu a fun, interactive, magical companion, the Flyer needs to know where it is in relation to the Wand. With a combination of gyroscopes, accelerometers, and three bluetooth transceivers, the Flyer can determine it’s distance and altitude from the Wand.  

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The flyer’s bio-inspired lightweight cage protects the user from the rotors (and vice versa…) and provides a tough, flexible bumper for a variety of flying environments.

For easy transportation to and from your favorite launch site, the flyer easily mounts on the wand. No need to juggle multiple bits and pieces for a trip to the park; Wondu neatly fits together for the ride. 

When not in use, Wondu becomes a beautiful companion night light, subtly mimicking a potted plant’s shape and form. The flyer docks on the wand, and the wand docks to the base, connecting the batteries to AC power for recharging. 

We all dream of flying. Sleep tight.