The Galileo: Your iPhone's Robotic Best Friend

By Greg Kumparak , written on March 23, 2012

From The News Desk

I'm starting to build up something of a love/hate relationship with Kickstarter.

On one hand, it lets entrepreneurs with crazy ideas find funding when it's quite possible they wouldn't have otherwise. On the other, I keep finding things I want to throw all of my money at. That's money I should be spending on other things. Like...concert tickets…and…uh...bounce house rentals? Oh God, I just realized I have no idea what normal, non-gadget-obsessed people spend money on.

The latest thing that I'm tempted to throw fistfuls of cash at: the Galileo. Two parts robot and one part software development kit, it lets you use one iOS device to pan, tilt, and otherwise control the camera of another.

Here's the idea, boiled down: You put one iPhone or iPod Touch in the Galileo's robotic pivoting base. As you swipe your finger across the display of another iOS device running compatible software, the Galileo moves accordingly. Drag down, Galileo tilts the camera up. Drag up, it tilts down.

Interestingly, the Galileo is built by Josh Guyot and JoeBen Bevirt, two of the main brains behind the super-bendy Gorillapod tripod.

So, what could you use this for? The most obvious use is, of course, video chats. As the person on the other end moves around -- or in cases of video chats with multiple people all in the same room, whenever the speaker changes -- you could pan and tilt the camera as you see fit. It'd also be rather convenient for times when your fellow video chatter's hands are, erm, occupied. Like when they're cooking. Yeah, cooking. WINK WINK NUDGE NUDGE COUGH WINK NUDGE.

But the guys behind the project have come up with some other clever use cases, as well. Photographers could use it to snap photos and time-lapse videos remotely with the built-in tripod mount! Terrify your babysitter by using it as a way-overkill security camera!

Or there's the more novel ideas, like using it to take a peek at your car's underbody, as shown in the shot above. After all, if you can afford two iOS devices and a skateboard, why the heck would you want to actually go underneath your car? There's, like, dirt down there.

More seriously, this thing is just really, really neat. It's a simple yet beautiful design, and it goes to show that there's still plenty of room to innovate in the physical, tangible, dauntingly-real hardware world for anyone daring enough to venture out of software. Just one day into the Kickstarter project, they've raised $23,000 of the $100,000 they're hoping for.

Even once they've raised their 100 grand and managed to get a few of these off the lines, though, they'll have another challenge to face: software integration. For this thing to work as promised, any video/photo app the user wants to use it with will need to be taught to handle all of the swiping/dragging behaviors and to pass them to the Galileo accordingly. They're building an API for exactly that, but that's the easy part. Finding enough partners to make it worthwhile (and convincing folks like, say, Skype) is the real challenge. Either way, I'm rooting for 'em to pull it all off.

Check out the demo video below, if only for the really, really depressing Grandma at the 10 second mark:

You can find the Galileo Kickstarter project right over here.