SXSW: Drone Games Showcase Leap, Sonar, Harlem Shake And The Chicken Dance

Over the weekend, there was everything from the new Leap Motion Controller to the Chicken Dance as teams from Rackspace and other companies competed in the Drone Games, a competition to hack Parrot AR Drones held in conjunction with SXSW Interactive.

A team from Groupon got early access to a Leap controller and successfully flew its quadcopter drone with nothing more than hand motions. It was an impressive display of the new controller, which is being unveiled publicly for the first time at SXSW, before it is scheduled to debut for sale in May. That wasn’t the only motion-sensing device in the competition, though. Another group from Austin used a Microsoft Kinect controller and The Chicken Dance to keep its drone aloft. The more team members flapped their arms, the higher the drone went. A few minutes later, another drone did the dancing – to the Harlem Shake – after it received a tweet from a Chicago-based team.

A fourth demo included a drone with onboard sonar that sent back enough data of its flight to create a 3D graphic visualization.

The Rackspace team of Jordan Rinke and Nick Mistry went last and successfully showed how its flying drone could take control of other drones in the room. While none of the drone demos was perfect, they showed how new insights arrive when coders focus on a new problem with open source solutions (The drones run on Linux, and hacks are shared online). Rinke, for one, seems excited about the possibility of combining what he and Mistry learned with the Chicago team’s dance moves to fly a flotilla of drones in perfect sync with each other. Could there be a music video in their future? The same idea could someday have use within a data center or other industries, Rinke said.

Check out the wild competition in this video:

And check out our previous video of Rinke and Mistry preparing for the Drone Games at SXSW.

Drone Games is just one of many events Rackspace is participating in around SXSW Interactive 2013. If you want to find us on Twitter, be sure to keep an eye on the hash-tag #SXRackspace.

Larry Meyer leads the Rackspace Creative Services team. He is a former TV reporter and anchor and passionate geek about all things tech.


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