Gofor: Drones on Demand
April 10, 2014 10:13 AM   Subscribe

Gofor is a Drones-as-a-service concept. "Drones are summoned much like taxis in other popular service apps. Your desired task is either noted at the outset using presets, or customized using voice commands."

"Once the drone arrives, your phone's flashlight is used to pair your device with the drone. From there, it depends on the task, the object-based UI is very easy to understand. Depending on the task, drones either operate autonomously or are flown by skilled operators"

Created by Alex Cornell & Phil Mills, Gofor isn't a real company, but shows us a potential near future world where personal drones are as common as taxis, and can be used for for tasks that range from helping extend your selfie range to performing audio and video surveillance of your neighbors. Gofor posits a future where we will use drones to get a wifi or cell phone signal while in a canyon, to watch for speed traps while driving, to watch over us when we walk alone and feel unsafe, and to check restaurant waiting times.
posted by jjwiseman (32 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Video: Behind the scenes at Gofor.
posted by jjwiseman at 10:16 AM on April 10

They're going to have to come up with some amazing new microphone technology to get this to work for audio like they imply, seeing as these things currently sound like weed whackers when they're flying around.

It's an interesting commentary though, and I actually think a lot of this might actually happen in the next decade. They're already becoming commonplace in sailing races.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:24 AM on April 10

posted by neroli at 10:29 AM on April 10

tylerkaraszewski, my take on the audio surveillance bit is that selecting the window of the room you want to listen in on implied the use of a laser microphone.
posted by jjwiseman at 10:30 AM on April 10


This is a bit of an odd angle to take. I've been waiting for a service like this so that my local independent whatever store can compete with Amazon's drone-based delivery plans.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:42 AM on April 10

This is a bit of an odd angle to take.

"If you're walking in an unsafe neighborhood, why not have a drone follow you and find the least risky way back?"
posted by neroli at 10:45 AM on April 10

Fair enough - it seems like an extremely limited angle to take that focuses on class resentment, when it seems like an actual technology of this sort would have quite a few different applications. (You may be quoting the video, which I can't watch right now. That said, as somebody acquainted with folks who got jacked when walking home late at night, your second description doesn't sound like such a bad use.)
posted by Going To Maine at 10:58 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]

No missiles, less murderous than Nomad. Lame.
posted by aramaic at 11:01 AM on April 10 [3 favorites]

Just for fun, here are my thoughts on the technical feasibility of some things shown in the video:

Pairing via camera flash on mobile device: That's clever! Yeah, that could work. With Uber, when multiple cars arrive at the same time at the same location for pickups, the drivers ask for names to make sure they're picking up the right people. Analogously, if a drone arrives at a spot with multiple Gofor customers, you could modulate the flash light to encode customer ID or something to match up drones with people.

Voice commands: Very feasible. Speech interfaces need a couple things to work well: limits on the language that can be used and good quality audio. Giving a drone a somewhat limited set of instructions via a mobile device should be doable (at least as well as Siri works).

"Object based tracking system": In the demo video, most of the "tracking" could be done without computer vision, just using known, static geo coordinates: Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, Restaurants, Your house, Roads, parking lots, empty fields. Some of the examples could be done using GPS-derived coordinates sent in realtime: You, friends, your car, Phil Mills (the unsafe-neighborhood walker). A couple things more strongly imply computer vision: The app lets you select and track a window very precisely, and it seems the drone can identify a parking space and whether it's available or occupied (and did you notice the drone claims it will hold the parking space for 15 minutes?!)--but maybe some cities have a realtime database of that sort of thing. Alerting you to a police speed trap could be done Waze-style. So most of this is doable now, and the rest is probably possible in the near future.

"Fuel waypoint: Your drone needed to stop for a charge": Lots of people are working on autonomous charging and battery swap stations for drones.
posted by jjwiseman at 12:40 PM on April 10

You may be quoting the video, which I can't watch right now.
They are quoting the video, it's one of the illustrated uses. Along side with having a drone hover up to someone's bedroom window and listen in, which they claim would be great for "telepresence" but dialed all the way up on my creepy stalking detector.

For both of these reasons I thought this was a near-sci-fi satire but now I am not so sure.
posted by pmv at 1:26 PM on April 10

BTW, Alex Cornell also did the "Our Drone Future" short film, previously on metafilter.
posted by jjwiseman at 1:33 PM on April 10

compete with Amazon's drone-based delivery plans.

Amazon has no plans. It is unlikely to be approved by the FAA and anyway would be completely impractical for any number of rather obvious reasons. Like this "company," it was a publicity stunt to "show potential."
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:59 PM on April 10

Of course, the fact that it's just a silly collection of buzzwords and not an actual existing company will do nothing to stop them from attracting $40M in VC funding by later this evening.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:00 PM on April 10 [1 favorite]

I will not be satisfied until I can have ioune stone like drones orbiting me at all time providing protection and streaming additional sensory data. Also I want each drone to have a projector to be able to do that 3d projection mapping to create an artificial terrain around me or dispatch them into a crowd to be everywhere at once.
posted by humanfont at 6:02 PM on April 10

drones orbiting me at all time providing protection
posted by various at 7:27 PM on April 10

Amazon has no plans. It is unlikely to be approved by the FAA and anyway would be completely impractical for any number of rather obvious reasons. Like this "company," it was a publicity stunt to "show potential."

Amazon to deliver by drone? Don't believe the hype
posted by homunculus at 8:21 PM on April 10

Amazon delivery drones edge closer to reality: "In his 2013 Letter to Shareholders released on Thursday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos wrote that the company has already flight-tested several generations of aerial vehicles, aka drones, and is working on designs for future generations. 'The Prime Air team is already flight testing our 5th and 6th generation aerial vehicles,' Bezos wrote, 'and we are in the design phase on generations 7 and 8.'"
posted by jjwiseman at 1:09 AM on April 11

It is unlikely to be approved by the FAA

Note that there is currently some question over the FAA's authority here. Last month a judge at the NTSB ruled that they currently have no authority over small unmanned aircraft, but it's being appealed.
posted by jjwiseman at 1:17 PM on April 11

Keep in mind that the FAA has setup a number if areas for testing and developing civilian UAVs with the goal of ultimately developing ways to certify vehicles and establish regulations for nationwide use.
posted by humanfont at 3:55 PM on April 11

drjimmy11, thanks for the deja vu. You sound just like internet dudes in 2006/2007 insisting rumours that Apple had been secretly working on a phone it would release soon were obvious baloney.
posted by lastobelus at 6:26 PM on April 11

For everyone who fantasizes about people shooting drones out of the sky with shotguns, or that they're too fragile to be feasible, etc., you might want to watch this.
posted by lastobelus at 7:01 PM on April 11

drjimmy11, curious to know your thoughts on how the "nothing but a publicity stunt" made it into shareholder news months after the need for the publicity stunt had passed. Anything? Believing that the Amazon drone announcement was only a publicity stunt and has no chance of becoming a reality telegraphs being utterly out of touch with what is happening in the UAV field.
posted by lastobelus at 8:07 PM on April 11

Small drones used as targets at a recreational machine gun range:

A group in Texas is fighting the Federal Aviation Administration [Wall Sreet Journal] on an order to stop flying drones in aid of search-and-rescue operations. Texas EquuSearch, a group that began using drones in 2006, responded to the FAA order--which was issued in February--with threats of legal action, writing that the regulatory body did not have authority to prohibit drone use.

Why Are Search-and-Rescue Drones Grounded?, in IEEE Spectrum.

Gene Robinson, a volunteer with EquuSearch, wrote a book about using drones for search and rescue, First to Deploy: Unmanned Aircraft for SAR & Law Enforcement, and is featured in Civilian Drones, a documentary/propaganda piece.
posted by jjwiseman at 10:50 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]

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