A video game which allows you to turn your iPhone into a remote control that flies a drone around your house, has been dubbed "the most awesome" use of augmented reality.
The AR Drone game comes in two parts. The first is a light drone, or 'quadricopter', powered by four small but powerful sets of blades. The machine weighs just 11 ounces and measures about 18 inches across. On the drone are two mini video cameras, which send the pictures back to the iPhone.
The second part is an application that you download to your iPhone or iPod Touch. This turns the mobile phone into not just a remote control – powered by the device's Wi-Fi – but also a video game. Tilting the mobile phone changes the direction and speed of the flying machine. And on the screen of the iPhone you not only see the footage of your house or garden filmed by the drone, but also imaginary monsters or fighter planes that jump out from behind the sofa or tree.
The AR Drone is the invention of Parrot, a French company that up to now has specialised in Bluetooth technology. It is the most sophisticated use of augmented reality in a video game so far.
Augmented reality is the concept of layering digital information and data over moving pictures of your surroundings. It is already in use on iPhones when users look at Google Maps, for instance, and see restaurants or tourist attractions – including pictures or reviews of those places – layered on top of the map.
Many video games developers have been hoping to use the technology to take games to another level and Parrot believes that it is the first to do so.
Cristina Sanz, the vice president of marketing at Parrot, said: "Kids spend ages in front of a computer or TV screen playing games and this gets them off their seats and chasing the drone around the backyard or sitting room.
"On the screen they see the tree or bush that is in the garden, and then suddenly a monster can jump out at them and they have to shoot it."
Wilson Rothman, features editor of gadget website Gizmodo, said: "It is just awesome. Augmented reality has been talked about since the 1990s as this revolutionary idea but now it has finally taken off.
"This is surely every kid's dream game made real."
If you have two AR Drones you can battle each other in dogfights.
So far just three games have been devised for the drones, but Parrot said they will allow any developer to work on games.
The gadget will go on sale this summer and is expected to cost less than £320.