Nixie is the first wearable camera that can fly

Remember the dronie? Recently, selfie-takers seeking to add a bit more creativity than their arm span allowed, began turning to drones like the ATmega8A Parrot AR.Drone to capture the moment. Now, a new wearable has emerged, which seems to be ripped straight from a Batman movie as with the flick of a wrist, the tiny device can take to the skies and record its surroundings.

If your selfies weren’t awesome enough, you’re in luck. A team of Makers have set out to take photography to whole new heights… literally.


Sure, smart watches bring smartphone features to wearers’ wrists, but can it fly freely and take video as it soars through the air? Stanford University researcher Christoph Kohstall, along with a team of engineers and designers, has formed a dream team to develop the Nixie. This wrist-mounded quadcopter hybrid just may hold the future of wearables, all while weighing less than a pound.

So, put away those camera-mounted helmets, selfie sticks and other contraptions, and slap the drone to your wrist. How it works is relatively simple. It sits on your wrist. You press a button. It takes off. Once it is a fair distance away, the drone turns around and captures a picture (or video) of you.

According to Kohstall, “You should be able with a gesture to tell the quadcopter to unfold. Then it’s going to take off from your wrist. It knows where you are, turns around, takes a picture of you, comes back. You can catch it from the air, [and] put it back on your wrist.”

The device is not designed to compete with the Apple’s iWatch or similar do-it-alls, but the team envisions the Nixie as a “personal photographer.” At the moment, the Nixie prototype is equipped with motion sensors that can detect the user’s location and respond to gestures-based commands before returning to the user to be extracted from mid-air and recalled back to the wrist.


Currently, there are three distinct modes of operation turn this flying device into the ultimate image-capturing robot.

“Panorama mode” sees the drone fly into the air and take 360-degree aerial images of the immediate surroundings. “Hover mode” allows Nixie to, you guessed it, hover above the surroundings and snap a series of shots. Lastly, “boomerang mode” has the flyer zoom off to a set distance from the wearer, take a picture, and then return to the user’s location. Serious due diligence on motion prediction algorithms and lightweight engineering have made these systems possible within the team’s desired specifications for Nixie. While other drones may feature similar functionality, its creators say that none promise the same level of portability or user friendliness.

“Quadcopters give you a new perspective you can’t get anywhere else,” says Jelena Jovanovic, Nixie’s project manager. “But it’s not really feasible to pilot a drone and keep doing what you’re doing.”


While the innovative device may not be embedded with an Atmel MCU, or even an Arduino for that matter, there is always version 2.0. (Right?) Nixie is still in prototype stages and there are a few challenges to be conquered before you see one at your local park. Though with the team’s impressive background and clear motivation, it wouldn’t be surprising if flying wearables like the Nixie became the norm in the near future.

This innovative idea was so impressive that it was awarded the top $500,000 prize in Intel’s Make It Wearable Challenge. For more information about the Nixie, fly on over to its official website for project updates.

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