What I’m Learning about Drones

If we’re connected on social media or if you listen to either of my podcasts (Social Media Church  and Awesome Marriage Podcast) you know that I’m a big fan of drones. For Christmas about 3 years ago I received a remote control helicopter and my inner child went nuts. It was pretty weak and maybe lasted about 3 months and could only fly in the house. I was hooked though and became fascinated by the potential usefulness of this technology.

Last year for my birthday, my wife took it to the next level and bought me my first actual drone. It was a  UDI U818 Wifi FPV  with a camera and could even be viewed live through a Virtual Reality headset while flying the drone. I was excited about it, but had no experience and trying to find space in New York City to fly it was next to impossible. I even tried flying it in our apartment, but 700 square feet isn’t nearly enough.

Once we moved to Texas I quickly found space and quickly saw how much fun this drone was and blown away by what it could do. It took me a week or 2  or 5 to get a handle on the controls as they are so reactive and the drone can take off so fast. I started flying the drone almost daily in our backyard until one day I lost the drone. I was flying it in our front yard this time when I lost site of the drone in the sun and my reaction was to go higher when a wind gust seemed to just grab it and take it away like a kite. I watched it fly away into a cow pasture (yes, I have a cow pasture across the street from my townhome… because Texas) never to be seen again.

After losing my first drone that my wife got me I wasn’t ready to give up yet, but I couldn’t quite justify this expense for something I so quickly and easily lost. My next step was to find the cheapest drone I could on Amazon, so I got the Syma X12 Nano.  It’s smaller than the palm of my hand, but I was blown away by how well it worked when I got it. I was able to have fun flying it around my house for about 2 weeks, but after a couple of crashes it never would fly straight and I was droneless once again.

I finally broke down about 3 months ago and bought 1 more at a price point of $50 this time and bought the UDI U818A-HD. It’s basically the same as my first drone without a high quality camera or the VR capabilities. It flies great though and I’ve learned to take far fewer risks. I’m having a blast and it seems to never gets old! It’s also been so fun to teach others including my kids how to fly it.

Now that I’ve shared my long history with drones, here’s what I’m learning:

  • They’re Fun – they’re seriously ridiculously fun! You get to control something that’s flying through the air!
  • They’re Affordable – I bought a drone that flies for less than $20! I have a very functional drone that I bought for $50. The price point continues to drop and the value that you can get for that price increases on a daily basis.
  • They’re Powerful – whether you want a racing drone that can go fast or a photography drone that can shoot 4K video, there’s a drone for that. There’s even a drone that can carry a person: watch this.
  • They’re Useful – these are no longer just toys, but have useful functions that are being developed for them daily. The delivery opportunities around these in the future will be very interesting to watch develop.

If you don’t have a drone yet, I’m just going to assume you don’t really care about enjoying life. Just kidding, but seriously, go get a drone and start having fun. You won’t likely find a functional use for it anytime soon (other than photos and videos), but having fun is useful enough for now from my perspective.

If you have a drone I would love for you to share which one you have and what you think. Also, if you have a good reason that I can convince my wife that I need the DJI Mavic Pro, please share that as well. I’m racking my brain here as I’m ready to take my drone flying to the next level!

What I’m Learning about 3D Printing

For Christmas this year I bought my daughters (4 and 7 years old) a 3D Printer.

Okay, maybe it was for me, but I saw it as a learning opportunity for them and something that I could create little toys for them on. I have wanted to purchase one for several years, but the price point has been too high up until now. About 2 years ago when I first became interested the cheapest version was more than $1,000 and about a year ago when I considered buying one I was looking at a minimum of $500. This time when I went looking on Amazon I could fine more than 10 3D printers that were under $250 and I went with the Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer.

Since purchasing the printer, I’m not sure that my girls have learned much, but I sure have. I’ve attempted printing about a dozen different items and successfully only printed 3: a cat, a dog and a shark ring. At this point, only one of my nieces is impressed.

Honestly, I bought a simple 3D printer and it was still hard to setup, hard to figure out and even when understanding the instructions, the attempted items I’ve tried to print have not turned out successful. Here are my learnings thus far:

  1.  It’s Complicated – I expected this to be easy for me as I normally pick up on things like this pretty easily. Everything is precise when it comes to the code, the settings, the filament, etc. and 1 thing out of place will ruin everything.
  2.  It’s Expensive – even though the printers themselves are dropping in price rapidly, it’s still not cheap when at best you can print little plastic items that are next to useless. In order to print things, you will have to spend $1,000 or more on a good printer. The additional cost of the filament (plastic) itself isn’t that cheap either.
  3.  It’s Tedious – because you must download the code, convert the code, adapt the code, establish the settings, etc. every item you print, it can feel very tedious to create anything. That’s just in the setup, most items take about 3-4 hours to print as well after you hit print.

You might think based on my learnings that I’ve changed my opinion on 3D printers being a big part of the future. I’m actually even more excited about them than before as I now understand them better and what they can do or should be able to do. While I have predicted them to be 2-3 years away from commonplace in homes and workplaces, I would now say that I think they are more like 4-6 years away.

Moving forward I think what needs to happen for 3D printing is for a common file format to be established for all printers (like a PDF file for posters) and for all printers to all have very standardized setting options. I also think the printers themselves will come a long way in the next few years with higher quality production for a lower cost and faster production time.

All that to say, if you’re interested in 3D printing, now is a great time to start learning and playing. If you are just interested in what it can create, but not interested in learning how it is created, I would just wait. 3D printers are not yet cost effective and the most expensive asset that we have is our time and it will currently cost you a significant amount of time to learn how to even print a useless little plastic cat.

If you are a 3D Printer owner I would love to hear what you are learning!

What I’m Learning about 360 Video and Virtual Reality

I’ve been obsessed with Virtual Reality (VR) since the first time I put on Oculus Rift VR Goggles for the first time about 2 years ago. Shortly after that Google released Google Cardboard and it seemed that VR would be here before we knew it. Adoption and development of this technology has been slower than I anticipated, but it makes sense as the ability to create VR experiences has been so challenging. More than ever I believe VR is going to be HUUUUGE (said with Donald Trump voice)! I just think it’s going to take longer than I anticipated.

I’ve purchased and given away several Google cardboard devices over the past 2 years and made my first big purchase with a 360 video camera in January. I bought the Insta360 nano from Amazon for 2 primary reasons:

  1. Simplicity – I love how it connected to my iPhone and could be uploaded easily from my mobile device and directly to Facebook or YouTube
  2. Affordability – not only was the device easy to use, it was also one of the least expensive devices on the market

Since buying the device I’ve helped Insta360 in their sales as I’ve had several friends see my pictures and videos asking where they can get one of these cool cameras. The quality of these videos has been much better than I expected and the simplicity to upload the videos to Facebook and YouTube has been even easier than I anticipated. I’ve yet to try and edit any videos, but the capturing and distributing has been awesome! The reception to the videos has also been pretty great.

Here are a few of the key things that I’m learning about this new technology:

  • 360 Video is Captivating – the wow factor of these videos has been incredible, especially when people view them through VR googles.
  • Anyone is now able to create 360 videos – as easy as it is to create 360 videos today, it will be even easier tomorrow.
  • Not All Video Should be shot in 360 – while it’s interesting for many experiences, it is not optimal for many if not most video experiences. With 360 video it is harder to control the focal point when you are trying to tell a story.
  • Shorter Videos are best for 360 viewing experiences – currently the VR viewing experiences can be nauseating for most and a long experience is not ideal. I think this will change for experiences like sporting events and even church services, but like mobile video, I’m finding that shorter is better when it comes to VR videos.

All in all, I am more excited than ever about this medium and think ministries need to be paying attention to this space. I believe in the next couple of years many churches will offer a VR worship experience both On-Demand and Live. Beyond worship experiences I believe VR will be an incredible opportunity for Bible reading, Holy Land tours, gospel presentations and more. It’s a consuming media engagement experience with seemingly limitless opportunities for creativity and innovation.

5 Facebook Live Tips for Your Ministry

Recently I shared 5 Ideas for your ministry to use Facebook Live. This list could have been 100 points long and I think the best thing you can do is just start using it as much as possible and see what engages most and do more of that. As you begin getting more comfortable with Facebook Live here are 5 tips to help you engage more effectively:

  1. Title Creatively
  2. Don’t Overthink It
  3. Prioritize Audio
  4. Keep It Short
  5. Boost the Post

5 Facebook Live Ideas for Your Ministry

Facebook Live is the hottest trend in social media right now. We are seeing so much engagement around this new feature and I believe that every ministry has a unique opportunity to use this feature within Facebook. There are many reasons why this is hot, but I believe it’s the authenticity that generally comes out through this function that best captures the attention of Facebook users. Here are 5 ideas that I hope might stir your ministry to begin maximizing Facebook Live:

  1. Ministry Moment – I believe this is the best and most effective use of the platform. Take 2-5 minutes to share a devotional thought or ministry impact story. Keeping it personal and sharing from the heart maximizes the authenticity factor that engages so well through this feature.
  2. Ministry Update – people want to hear from the leader about what is going on in your ministry. Taking just a few minutes to share an update in a very natural way as well as answering any questions live provides great transparency for your ministry and greater connection for those who care deeply about it.
  3. Behind the Scenes – go behind the scenes in your workspace, ministry center, church building, etc. sharing a perspective that those connected to your ministry might not normally get to see.
  4. Meet the Team – there are always volunteers and staff members of every ministry that people might never see or know the work that they are doing. Take a minute to introduce them publicly and allow those connected to the ministry get to know them in a personal way.
  5. Live From – act like a news reporter and go live from a ministry event, worship service, outreach activity, etc. For those who can’t be there physically this is a way for them to feel a deeper connection to the ministry that is happening all the time.

What are you waiting for? Pick one of these and go Live on Facebook right now. I would love for you to share additional ideas in the comments below.