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Ziphius aquatic drone launching on Kickstarter soon (hands-on)

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As the world of remote control devices inexorably turns into a world of drones, the distinction between the two might be a little fuzzy to most people. So you might be forgiven if you take the Ziphius as little more than a cute, remotely-controlled boat. That's not the case at all, though, as this little device has a Raspberry Pi computer inside and an adjustable video-camera up front. In normal use, you control it from an iOS or Android device, directing the motors with your left thumb and adjusting the camera above and below the waterline with your right. However, they guys behind the project say that they're creating apps and planning on releasing a developer SDK that will allow the Ziphius to act autonomously. The simplest example might be following a red ball in a robotic Marco Polo game, but they could see other users as well — their apps are built on the Unity engine, so augmented reality is a real possibility.

We played around with an early prototype in a kiddy-pool and it does exactly what you'd expect, cutely tootling around at a slow pace (they rightly didn't trust us with the full-speed version in such a tiny space). The Wi-Fi range will vary, of course, and the company expects that your average battery life should be about an hour — depending on just how hard you push the motors. Luckily, the Ziphius has a very low center-of-gravity, so it should be able to handle wake and waves and recover gracefully when flipped. Ziphius is an entrant in the "Insert Coin" competition at the Engadget Expand conference and hopes to launch on Kickstarter in a month or so, for "around $200."