How to be in two places at the same time with a drone avatar

Suggesting a simple solution to a classic problem with a drone and a phone and just a few things more.

How often have you not been wanting to be somewhere else. And at the same time needed to be exactly where you were? Wouldn’t it be so much nicer to join your friends at the festival, traveling with them to cool places, or just for hanging out, talking and having fun. Than to stay at home, doing what ever it is you have to do.

The problem is classic. People have dreamt about this through the ages. Spiritual minded will tell you that it have actually already happened. Science fiction has teased us with numerous great perspectives and hypothetical possibilities. And with surprising hologram guest appearances by pop artists in recent years, we have even had a taste of the ‘real’ thing.

But all magic aside, it might actually be quite simple. With the inventions of phones, radio, video, Skype calls and FaceTime ,we already have first level sensations from distant location with audial and visual feedback. Skyping with someone is basically a loophole to a second location, without you having to go anywhere. Maybe we could expand on that? But first, let’s settle on what it means to actually be somewhere. We could of course go deep into a philosophical discussion of this, but, for simplicity’s sake, let’s simply start by agreeing that your ability to get sensory inputs from your physical surroundings is a necessary condition for you to register yourself as being in these surrounds; at this location.

Then, I would argue, another defining factor is the theoretical option for you to be somewhere else. You can simply move. And then you will no longer be where you just were. But somewhere else. You can wander off, leave the place, and you can come back. That is the concept of free agency; You ability to move.

And, now I’m getting to the point. If you have a sensation of your surroundings and the ability to move, then you can actually say that you are somewhere.

And, this is where it gets easy. If we take the ability of receiving audial and visual input from another location, from your phone. Via a Skype call or some variant of FaceTime. And we add a simple abilities to move forward, up and down, and change direction, like you get with a remote controllable light quadcopter drone. Then we would achieve the basic effect of being in two places at the same time.

By simply hooking up a phone with a drone, you would be able to fly around as you please, with full on free agency, and with sensory feedback.

Just watching and listening in on what happens around you is of course not fun for too long. And it hardly constitutes any illusion for people around you, that you are actually there. This is the reason why the Skype-call or FaceTime variant is an important element. With a video stream of your face, and the audial expression of your voice through the phone’s loud speaker, you will be able to join and interact with people you meet. You will be able to join the activities and talk with them. You will hear and see everything around them, just like they hear and see it. And you will be able to leave and come back as you please.

Of course having some kind of a physical presence in two different locations at the same time, does not automatically allow your for the extra ability to be completely present, with all your mind and attention both places at the same time. But, my guess is, this kind of multitasking can be learned fairly quickly.

Fairly quickly will also arise the requirements of having have more and better sensations. Like smell and taste. Ability to touch and feel. And better audio and wider visual scopes, so you can quickly zoom in and out, and turn your ‘head’ fast, reacting to a sudden sound.

Also you would probably soon want better battery life. With the GPS in your phone, you don’t have to worry about getting lost and not being able to find a way home. But if the battery turns flat, you will in fact, be dead. Unless someone finds you, picks you up and recharge you.

So, how far are we from this actually becoming something? As I see it, not far. I don’t see a reason why somebody cannot connect the dots, to be able to both use a phone’s FaceTime or something similar, and at the same time control a drone that it’s docked into. This would be sufficient for a first version of what we could call the ‘Drone Avatar’.

I’m not a technical wizard in this regard, so this is kind of where I’m stuck. Though i’m not completely ignorant of the technical problems that will soon arise setting out to make this happen and turn it into something truly useful; The weight of the phone, connectivity, the battery life and all that. But basically I just noticed this idea taking form, and could not let go of it. So if anyone feels like taking it to the next level, I would be thrilled to hear about it.

UX driven product designer with 20 years experience in editorial design and digital publications. Let’s work together!

UX driven product designer with 20 years experience in editorial design and digital publications. Let’s work together!