last year in Ring (owned by Amazon), Amazon’s annual hardware fall event, showcased a drone designed for Capture video inside your home. Ring didn’t exactly call it a drone — he called it the Ring Always Home Cam — but it was an autonomous flying device with plastic-wrapped propellers and motion-recording cameras. It was already a drone. The reaction was quick: Why would you want a drone inside your house?
Ring pushed forward, undeterred by the chorus of “What could possibly go wrong?”. She is now making Always Home Cam Available by invitation, which requires potential customers to apply for the ability to purchase it. Last year, the company said it would sell for $250, and is committed to that price. That’s right: For less than $300, you can have a drone that will fly around your head inside your home.
To hear Amazon and Ring product managers tell this, the drone is designed to ease the burden of having multiple cameras stationary in different locations around your home. Alternatively, you can just press a button on the Ring Always Home Cam and send it flying around to scan the place, or you can program it to select specific activities during specific time windows — say, at night, while the family sleeps. It streams video to your smartphone or tablet, and clips can be stored for up to 60 days for a subscription fee.
Since we couldn’t get our hands on the drone, it’s hard to explain its design. Ring said it’s lightweight, and we know there are cameras installed on the lower half of it. An integrated neural processing unit enables the drone to identify different scenarios, as well as objects inside the home. It has propellers with plastic heads, for safety, and its docking station is designed to block the camera when the drone is at rest.
Ring president Laila Rouhi told WIRED that the company faced specific design challenges in building the drone. These include “defining the windows and how light shines from windows, mirrors, chandeliers, children, animals – just all the things that are in our homes,” Rouhi said. “There is no universal blueprint.”
The company may be able to tackle some of these engineering challenges — and no doubt it will continue to iterate based on data shared by its “invited” customers — but some privacy and civil rights advocates expressed significant concerns about the drone last year, for which Ring provided some benchmark data. . Amazon Chief of Devices Dave Limp said during Today’s virtual event That Amazon sees privacy as a “big opportunity for invention”.
Rouhi says that one of Ring’s core tenets is “customer control…and I believe that over the past several years, Ring has done a tremendous amount to deliver on that promise and put that control in the hands of our customers.” Rouhi also noted that Ring has rolled out end-to-end encryption for videos captured with Ring cameras and that Ring Always Home Cam will not be part of the company. Controversial partnerships with law enforcement.
Drones are still “terrifying”, says Evan Greer, director of digital rights advocacy group Fight for the Future.
“I think there is a growing consensus among both civil liberties and digital rights advocates that having these types of internet-connected cameras in your home makes you less safe, not more secure,” Greer says. (Garer wasn’t citing a specific data set, as she later explained, but she made an observation.) “The idea of having something that can now fly around your house now greatly increases the potential for abuse and the likelihood that these devices will take snapshots. … of people who disagree.”
Correction September 28, 2021: A previous in this story incorrectly said that the Always Home Cam includes microphones. This is not accurate. The device only has a camera.
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